Rail strike: Shapps calls government involvement demands a “stunt”

LONDON (Parliament Politics Magazine) – Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary dismissed appeals for the government to intervene in rail strike discussions as a publicity stunt.

During the strikes, only 20% of trains are expected to run, according to Boris Johnson, who urged commuters to “stay the course.”

The RMT union’s secretary general, Mick Lynch, said discussions broke down on Monday when a mandatory redundancy notice was sent.

Millions of travellers in England, Wales, and Scotland are expected to be affected.

After Network Rail and 13 rail companies went on strike at midnight, passengers are being warned to avoid all but essential travel. Strikes are set to take place on Thursday and Saturday.

Trains that do run will begin and end much later than usual – between 07:30 and 18:30.

The RMT is on strike in response to what it describes as an “aggressive agenda” of cuts to employment, working conditions, salary, and pensions.

They were sorry about that [disruption to people’s everyday lives], they didn’t want that to happen, Mr Lynch told the BBC’s Today programme.

Instead of revising their current proposals, he added, Network Rail had issued a statutory redundancy notice on Monday.

He also claimed that the government, which controls Network Rail, was intentionally obstructing employers and the union from reaching an agreement, despite ministers’ denials of playing a role in the discussion.

Mr Shapps, on the other hand, claims that he does not meet with unions since that is something that employers do, dubbing calls for him to come to the bargaining table “a stunt” and claiming that there is a “pay offer on the table, the door is open.”

The reality was that they were using it as a mask for the fact that they had walked out of the negotiations that they should have been in with their employers, he told BBC Breakfast.

In the next two months, the transport secretary plans to modify the rules to allow workers with transferable skills to fill a position left vacant by a striker.

He stated that it meant that if someone was seated at a screen in Network Rail’s control room, they might not go to another screen at that time, even if they were completely qualified to do so, for example, without union authorisation.

That was illogical. It was not how a typical company or organisation would function.

You were redefining what was called agency, but what you were really doing was allowing them to have transferable skills across Network Rail, he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said during a cabinet meeting on Tuesday that the strikes were creating enormous inconvenience and disruption by making it much harder for people to reach work, jeopardising people’s appointments, and making it more difficult for youngsters to sit for examinations.

He added that he wanted to emphasise to everyone that morning why he believed the strikes were so inappropriate and unnecessary.

He continued, “We need, I’m afraid, everybody – and I say this to the country as a whole – we need to get ready to stay the course.

They must maintain the course because those reforms, those improvements in the way they ran their railways, were in the best interests of the travelling public and would assist farepayers around the country save money, Mr Johnson added.

To offset rising costs of living, the RMT union is asking for a salary increase of at least 7%, but employers have only offered a maximum of 3% if they agree to job cutbacks and changes in working procedures.

Inflation is expected to approach 11% in the autumn, according to the Bank of England, with prices growing at their quickest rate in 40 years.

Christine Jardine, a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrat Treasury, told BBC Breakfast that the people had been let down, including police officers, health care workers, students and children who had exams that morning, and teachers who were worried how they were going to get into schools. It was insufficient.

Andrew Haines, the CEO of Network Rail, stated that the government had not been the restraining element in negotiations and that with the proper arrangement, they might go above the 3% wage increase.

Kourtney Spak

Kourtney Spak is an american journalist and political commentator. Her journalism career focuses on American domestic policy and also foreign affairs. She also writes on environment, climate change and economy.