Mick Lynch has said that rail strikes planned for the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final were not deliberately scheduled to prevent people from getting to the event.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on May 13 after the union’s executive rejected the latest offer aimed at resolving a long-running pay dispute.
The strikes will affect 14 train operators across the country on the same day that Liverpool hosts the Eurovision final.
Mr Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said the date was the only one that union members could walk out on due to rules governing when unions can call strikes.
“Our mandate runs out and we have to get another one, and we have to give two weeks’ notice, so when the talks broke down it was the only day.
“We don’t pick out events in our union.
“We don’t say ‘we’ll disrupt that event, or we’ll disrupt that event’, we want to go on strike on Saturdays because it’s the busiest day on the railway now following the changes from Covid and our members want to strike on Saturdays.
“That is the only available date that is available to us within that mandate, that’s why we picked it.
“I have no interest in upsetting people where we don’t have to but strikes have to be effective, they have to have some meaning.
“You have to influence the debate by taking effective action and that’s what we’re doing.”
The RMT is re-balloting its members of 14 train operating companies on whether to continue taking industrial action, with a result expected on May 4.
The union said if it beats all the legal thresholds for turnout and achieves a “yes” vote, it will have a further six-month strike mandate.