Union comeback highlights government hypocrisy to rail workers
The RMT union has delivered a scathing comeback to an attempt by the Transport Secretary Mark Harper to demonise the rail unions today.
As train drivers with the union Aslef started off a set of strikes which will affect rail services across the country this weekend, with RMT members on strike too, the minister for transport took to Twitter to attack their actions.
Starting off by accusing the unions of targeting ‘much loved sporting events,’ Harper went on to declare that rail union leaders had, ‘conspired to inflict as much misery as possible on passengers this week’.
He then argues that the government had ‘done our bit’ to end the disputes, before accusing the union leadership of blocking an offer being put to members.
He moves on to divert attention on to how much train drivers are paid – despite being lower than MPs basic annual salary – and stated that the strikes had, ‘already caused workers to miss out on almost £1800 in lost earnings so far.’
RMT, whose members are walking out tomorrow to demand better pay and conditions, laid down the hypocrisy in the government’s line of argument in their response.
The union tweeted back: “For transparencies sake you should point out that your government has spent £630 million of taxpayers money indemnifying the train operators. To quote Huw Merriman: “It’s actually ended up costing more than would have been the case if it had just been settled…””
Members of the public were also quick to question why rail pay disputes were in the process of being resolved in Wales and Scotland where credible offers had been made, but not by the Westminster government, undermining the attempt by Harper to deflect responsibility for the strikes away from government.
RMT went to highlight for Harper why his government’s latest offer was not being put to members: “You fail to mention that you’re also: Cutting jobs. Cutting station staff. Cutting on-board staff. Cutting maintenance. Planning to close every ticket office. Reducing accessibility. Attacking workers’ right to strike. And, you’ve torpedoed previous possible deals!”
The union also stated that, whilst rail workers have had a four-year pay freeze, rail bosses were awarded a pay rise between 15-275%.
RMT added: “You’ve also permitted two rail companies to pay dividends totalling £82 million. Eighty. Two. Million. Pounds.”
Others on Twitter were quick to condemn the transport secretary and accuse him of failing to understand industrial action and his job role.
One posted: ‘Strike action is meant to be disruptive Mark — and workers have no choice. You and your broken government have created this environment.’
Another Tweet stated: ‘You’re the Secretary of State for Transport & should support the rail workers & the safe & effective railway service they are trying to retain for all of us, rather than prioritising the rail companies’ CEOs’ salaries & shareholders’ dividends.’
Whilst a train driver put it bluntly to Harper: ‘By targeting our T&C’s in a way guaranteed to prolong this, government have conspired to inflict as much misery on passengers as possible. GET ROUND THE TABLE you waste space.’
Today and on Saturday 3 June Aslef members will be walking out, while RMT members will strike on Friday.
Aslef members are striking because train drivers haven’t had a pay increase since 2019, whilst the union has highlighted that rail bosses continue to receive huge salaries, with the leasing companies who own the trains and rent them back pocketed £3.0 billion from the industry in 2020-21.
Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward
(Photo credit: BBC Question Time / Screenshot)
Left Foot Forward’s trade union reporting is supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust
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