Train strikes: Threat to Eurovision and FA Cup final as new dates are revealed

Two union disputes with train operating companies are to result in fresh strikes - including on the days of the Eurovision Song Contest and FA Cup finals.

The RMT union, which settled a pay row with Network Rail last month, said it would launch action across 14 train operators on Saturday 13 May - the day Liverpool hosts Eurovision's main event on behalf of war-torn Ukraine - after the breakdown of talks.

Its executive had been discussing a new offer from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG), which represents the companies.

The RMT claimed the operators had "torpedoed" the negotiating process.

Train drivers to strike on big day for football; plea to Britons trying to flee Sudan - politics latest

A statement explaining its position read: "Following further discussions between the union and RDG, the employer issued a clarification on the offer RMT has been considering.

"The RDG is now saying they would only implement the first-year payment of 5% if the union terminated its industrial mandate, meaning no further strike action could take place.

"Stage 2 discussions which are part of the offer made by the employer would then have to begin without the union having any industrial leverage at the negotiating table."

It also confirmed that its members at the operators - including Avanti West Coast, which covers Eurovision hosts Liverpool - were being re-balloted in a bid to extend their strike mandate by an additional six months.

An RDG spokesperson responded: "More strike action is totally unnecessary and will only heap more pressure on an industry already facing an acute financial crisis.

"Senselessly targeting both the final of Eurovision and the FA cup final is disappointing for all those planning to attend."

Earlier on Thursday, three days of strikes by drivers were announced by Aslef - including on the day of the FA Cup final.

The decision to take industrial action followed the union's rejection of a pay offer from 16 train companies.

The dates Aslef announced were Friday 12 May, Wednesday 31 May, and Saturday 3 June - the latter on the day of the football cup final and the Epsom Derby.

Aslef's general secretary Mick Whelan said: "Our executive committee met this morning and rejected a risible proposal we received from a pressure group which represents some of the train companies.

"The proposal - of just 4% - was clearly not designed to be accepted, as inflation is still running north of 10% and our members at these companies have not had an increase for four years."

As well as strikes, Aslef said it would withdraw non-contractual overtime from 15 May to 20 May and again on 13 May and 1 June.

The industrial action announced today will affect some of the UK's biggest train firms, including Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, London North Eastern Railway and South Western Railway.

Mr Whelan said the union "do not want to go on strike" but added the "blame for this action lies, fairly and squarely, at the feet of the employers who have forced our hand over this by their intransigence".

"It is now up to them to come up with a more sensible, and realistic, offer and we ask the government not to hinder this process," he said.

Read more:
Striking RMT rail workers offered fresh deal from rail firms
Sunak's strikes nightmare is far from over

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: "It is deeply disappointing that Aslef has decided to call strikes and ban overtime, targeting thousands of people attending the UK's first Eurovision event in 25 years - including Ukrainians displaced by Putin's war - and the first ever all-Manchester FA Cup final.

"The fair and reasonable offer from the RDG included urgent reform to ensure our railways are financially sustainable for the benefit of passengers, rail workers and the taxpayer as well as delivering a pay rise - for members whose salary already averages £60,000 a year.

"Aslef need to call off these strikes and give their members a say on this offer."