Rail unions accused of ‘self harm’ as strike chaos set to continue
Mick Lynch argues with BBC host over reporting on strikes
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Transport Secretary Mark Harper has accused the rail unions of committing “self-harm” on the railways through continued strike action. He said there is a “danger” that people maybe be put off from using the railways as a result of the disruption. Mr Harper claimed the unions have been given a “fair and reasonable offer”, but said they are “still not willing to settle”.
Speaking to GB News, Mr Harper added: “What people want to see is to get this dispute sorted out.
“The deal has to be done, the detailed negotiations have to be done between the employers and the rail unions.
“The Government’s job, on behalf of the taxpayer who has subsidised the railways massively during the COVID-19 pandemic… is to make sure there is a fair and reasonable offer on the table – which there is – and facilitate those negotiations between employers and trade unions and try and get these disputes resolved.”
This comes ahead of further strikes from the Rail, Maritime and Transport and Aslef unions.
RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will stage two 48-hour walkouts from Tuesday ad Friday.
Meanwhile, Aslef members will strike on Thursday.
Passengers have been told to expect significant disruption as only a limited number of trains will run.
They have been advised to only travel if absolutely necessary, allow extra time and check when the first and last trains will depart.
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There may also be disruption to services on Sunday 8 January as striking workers return to their duties.
Aslef’s general secretary, Mick Whelan, warned that the union is “in it for the long haul”.
He said: “We don’t want to go on strike but the companies have pushed us into this place. They have not offered our members a penny, and these are people who have not had an increase since April 2019.
“That means they expect train drivers at these companies to take a real-terms pay cut – to work just as hard for considerably less – when inflation is running at north of 14 percent.
“The train companies say their hands have been tied by the government, while the government – which does not employ us – says it’s up to the companies to negotiate with us.
“We are always happy to negotiate – we never refuse to sit down at the table and talk – but these companies have offered us nothing, and that is unacceptable.”
Meanwhile, Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, has accused the government of blocking a deal to end the long-running dispute.
He claimed the union has “not heard from anyone formally since mid-December”.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday, he added: “The Government simply will not give a mandate to the employers – Network Rail and the train operators – that will allow this deal to be resolved.
“They are sitting on their hands and noted by their absence from this scene.”
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