UK rail workers to strike before and after Christmas

Passengers travel ahead of planned national rail worker strike, in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Thousands of British railway workers will stage further strikes over the next two months in a long-running dispute over pay, the RMT union said on Tuesday, signalling travel disruption before and after the Christmas holiday period.

Over 40,000 rail workers will go on strike on Dec. 13-14, 16-17, Jan. 3-4 and 6-7, the RMT said after talks with train operators and Network Rail - which owns and maintains train infrastructure - ended without a resolution.

"This latest round of strikes will show how important our members are to the running of this country and will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions," RMT general secretary Mick Lynch told reporters in London.

"I'm not the grinch. I'm a trade union official and I'm determined to get a deal," he added.

Rail workers in Britain have staged several strikes this year, including the country's biggest rail strike in decades during the summer, over demands for better pay during a cost-of-living crisis.

Businesses and train companies warned of travel disruption in the run-up to Christmas from the strikes. The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the week of the strikes in December is usually the year's busiest for the pub industry.

"Customers will be cancelling bookings and staying home, whilst staffing shortages will be exacerbated by a lack of transport options," BBPA Chief Executive Emma McClarkin said.

The RMT had earlier suspended strikes planned for early November to allow for negotiations but said on Tuesday industry bosses had failed to offer any new pay deals.

Both Network Rail and train operating companies said in separate statements there had been progress in recent talks with RMT, and hoped the union would return for further negotiations.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, said there had been an "outline of a credible deal" for the first time in months.

“We are asking the RMT to stay at the negotiating table, work with us towards a fair deal and end a dispute that is harming passengers, the industry, and their members,” the group said.

(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, Farouq Suleiman and Muvija M, editing by Kylie MacLellan and Cynthia Osterman)