Grant Shapps

Unions Making A ‘Huge Mistake’ By Pressing Ahead With ‘Disastrous’ Strikes, Says Shapps

today19 June 2022

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Unions have been warned they are making a “huge mistake” by opting for strike action next week that threatens to bring the country to a standstill.

The RMT union confirmed that strikes will go ahead on June 21, 23 and 25 next week in what has been dubbed the biggest industrial walkout in a generation.

Among those who will be affected by the strikes are students sitting exams and people travelling to summer events including the Glastonbury festival.

The unions have accused Westminster of “inflaming tensions” and threatening to roll back workers jobs and pay through plans to “modernise” the railway.

But transport secretary Grant Shapps this morning accused the unions of “gunning for this strike throughout” as both sides blamed each other for failing to reach agreement.

Shapps told Sky News: “It is a huge mistake.

“The unions have been gunning for this strike throughout. This strike is completely unnecessary.”

With 13 operators and approximately 50,000 members of the RMT union expected to walk out, next week’s action has been described as the “biggest outbreak of industrial action in the UK since 1989”.

A key demand from railway workers is that their pay increase to a level that can keep pace with the rise in the cost of living — although RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has denied the union is angling for an 11% rise to match inflation forecasts of 11%.

Each strike will last 24 hours. However, train operators have warned that knock-on effects mean that effectively six days will be blocked out.

Shapps warned that the action is going to “inconvenience millions of people – students doing their GCSEs and A-levels, people trying to get to hospitals to try get operations that have been postponed, perhaps, during coronavirus”.

“It is disastrous,” he continued.

“It is no way to behave on the railway. There is no advantage to this. I know Mick Lynch says he is ‘nostalgic for union power’ but this is no way to behave.”

Lynch immediately hit back at the government, accusing it of presiding creating a “crisis” for its members.

He told Sky News: “We don’t want to be the cause of the disruption in people’s lives.

“We want a settlement to this dispute, but we’re facing a crisis for our members — we’re faced with thousands of job cuts.

“Despite what Grant Shapps says there’s been no guarantee that these redundancies won’t be compulsory.

“We’ve seen four or 5,000 Jobs already go from the railway. They’ve told our maintenance staff on Network Rail that 3,000 jobs will go. They’re going to cut back on the safety regime. They’ve told us that every single booking office in Britain will close. They’ve told us that they’re going to extend the working week from 35 hours to 40 or possibly 44.

“For new entrants, that will mean lower wages. So they’re actually proposing pay cuts, not a pay rise and an increase in working time on the railway.”

Lynch also said some train companies have not invited workers for talks or made pay offers ahead of strikes after Shapps accused the RMT of walking out of talks to attend a union rally.

“Train operating companies have made no offer at all during these talks, there are two strands of talks.

“Network Rail have got a strand, which is about half the people and the train operators.

“The train operators adjourned the meeting on Thursday, they’ve not invited us to any talks whatsoever and they’ve made no offer on pay.

“We’re looking for a pay rise that reflects the cost of living.”

Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy urged the government to “get round the table … to resolve this”.

She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I’m on the side of the people who are building and creating and driving this country, whether they work on the railways or they’re trying to use the railways to get to work.

“Only a few years ago Grant Shapps was calling them true heroes, now he’s refusing to meet them. The government hasn’t lifted a finger since March to engage in those talks.

“During the pandemic they took the right to negotiate back from train operating companies, so they’re the only people who can resolve this and yet they’re not prepared to.

The biggest problem that this country has is not militant workers, it’s a militant government.”

Written by: Admin

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