LONDON (Reuters) -Three days of strikes by tens of thousands of British rail workers over the next week have been suspended while "intensive negotiations" are held in a long-running dispute over pay and working conditions, the RMT trade union said on Friday.
Rail operators welcomed the news but said the change of plan had come too late in the day to reinstate services on Saturday, and Transport Minister Mark Harper warned there would still be "significant disruption".
The RMT, whose members have held several days of walkouts over the last few months, said it would hold talks with the train operating companies and Network Rail, which owns, operates and develops Britain's railway infrastructure.
The latest strike action had been planned for Nov. 5, 7 and 9. The union said it had now secured the "promise of an offer" from the train companies.
"The threat of strike action and our strongly supported industrial campaign has made the rail employers see sense," RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said in a statement.
But the union said its dispute with the companies remained "very much live" and the result of another ballot on strike action was due Nov. 15.
Network Rail, which has said it had offered workers a two-year 8% deal, said the late notice meant services for Saturday would remain extremely limited and Monday was also likely to be disrupted.
"We look forward to getting back round the table with all our trades unions early next week to see if the progress made this week can be built on, and a resolution found," Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said in a statement.
Another smaller union, the TSSA, said it had also called off planned strikes for Nov. 5,7,8 and 9 to hold talks with bosses from Network Rail and other service operators.
British workers from several industries have taken strike action over the last few months as pay rises fail to keep pace with double-digit inflation.
A separate strike by London Underground staff due to take place on Nov. 10 is still scheduled to go ahead.
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, Farouq Suleiman and Michael Holden; Editing by Kylie MacLellan, Jane Merriman and Aurora Ellis)