Rail strikes: Lib Dem MP shares ‘suspicions’ about Shapps
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Tens of thousands of staff at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out in a dispute over pay with picket lines appearing at dawn on Tuesday (June 21). More than 40,000 rail workers are striking on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Unions have said the rail strikes could mark the beginning of a “summer of discontent” as teachers, medics, waste disposal workers and even barristers move towards industrial action in the wake of soaring food and fuel prices.
Much of Britain will have no passenger trains today, including most of Scotland and Wales, all of Cornwall and Dorset.
There are also no services running in Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester.
Last-ditch talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
But some workers have welcomed the action, with Twitter user tennis era admitting on Monday: “Tomorrow’s tube strike = wfh = watching Eastbourne.”
Fellow Twitter user Emily Nics chimed in: “Working from home tomorrow as the Tube and Trains on strike. So that is a good thing RIGHT? That I can rest tomorrow at home and take it easy.”
A third Twitter user The Sun Soldier added: “Wfh tomorrow. Sleeping iiiinnnn.”
Fellow Twitter user Ben said: “Thank god for the train strikes. 3 days peace working from home. I might actually be able to get stuff done.”
READ MORE ABOUT A ROW BETWEEN NEIGHBOURS OVER ELDERLY DOGS
i am da’man tweeted: Would like to thank RMT Union for their strike action. My company has now agreed to more working from home so now only need to use the trains 1 day a week instead of 4. Massive pay rise for me with the savings on train tickets.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the industrial action will harm businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic and the unions were harming those they claim to help.
Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive Officer at UK Hospitality, told the BBC: “We are anticipating our members will loss over half a billion pounds of revenue at a time when they can ill afford to lose that kind of money.”
Mick Lynch, secretary-general of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), said: “Our campaign will run for as long as it needs to run.”
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Unions have slammed Labour after the party banned its frontbenchers from picket lines, in a memo leaked to Politics Home.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: “The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers, by words and by actions.”
Motorists were warned to expect a surge in traffic as train passengers switch to road transport.
The AA predicted the worst affected roads are likely to be main motorway arteries, as well as rural and suburban areas.
Mr Johnson is expected to say on Tuesday: “Too high demands on pay will also make it incredibly difficult to bring to an end the current challenges facing families around the world with rising costs of living.
“Now is the time to come to a sensible compromise for the good of the British people and the rail workforce.”
Mr Lynch said Network Rail had offered a two percent pay rise with the possibility of a further one percent later dependent on efficiency savings.
He told BBC’s Newsnight Network Rail had “escalated” the dispute during Monday’s talks, saying: “They have issued me a letter saying that there are going to be redundancies starting from July 1.
“So rather than trying to come to an agreement in this dispute, they’ve escalated it by giving us formal notice of redundancy amongst our Network Rail members.”
He warned the dispute could continue for months, adding: “It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4 billion of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.
“The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.
“At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.”
The Department for Transport challenged Mr Lynch’s clams, adding it cost taxpayers about £600 per household to keep the railway running during the Covid pandemic.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Sky the Government would push ahead with modernisation plans and would put protections in place for passengers during future rail strikes.
He said: “The strikes this week are a reality. They’ve called these three days of strikes. What we’ll do in the future though is make sure that we’ve put some additional protections in place for the travelling public, for example through minimum service levels.”
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