RMT leader tells government to ‘tone down rhetoric’

Train services are returning to normal today after almost a week of industrial action, while RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has told transport secretary Grant Shapps to ‘tone down the rhetoric and get on with his job, which is to settle this dispute’.

Mick Lynch was on a picket line at London Euston station on Saturday, which was the third 24-strike by around 40,000 staff at 13 English train operators as well as Network Rail. Although most drivers belong to ASLEF, and were not joining the walkout on Saturday, the lack of Network Rail signallers meant that many lines had to close again. Some of the worst affected areas were those with mechanical boxes, because Network Rail’s substitutes were mainly deployed in main line signal panels and rail operations centres so that around a fifth of the normal timetable could be provided.

Meanwhile, the war of words has continued. Transport secretary Grant Shapps has declined to intervene, saying the dispute over jobs and pay is a matter for the union and the employers rather than the government, and that the RMT is telling a ‘total lie’ when it says he was ‘wrecking’ the negotiations by refusing to tell Network Rail not to reduce the size of its workforce. However the RMT claims he is managing the dispute behind the scenes, because Network Rail is state-owned and the operators are also DfT contractors rather than comparatively independent franchises, because they ended in 2020.

Speaking outside Euston, Mr Lynch said: ‘We haven’t made any false claims. The railway last week was down by 80 per cent, that has an effect that we don’t particularly want to deploy and they are losing revenue commercially and that hurts them and it hurts our people because they’ve lost their wages. We don’t want that. If Grant Shapps wants to be constructive that’s what he can do. He needs to tone down the rhetoric and get on with his job, which is to settle this dispute.’

He continued: ‘It’s quite odd the people who are running this country are brought up on a diet of Latin and Greek and our members are brought up on a diet of getting up at ungodly times to run the transport system.’

The DfT responded: ‘The transport secretary has consistently urged union representatives to get back around the negotiating table and agree a deal to bring our rail industry into the 21st century. Strikes should always be the last resort, not the first, so it is hugely disappointing and premature that the RMT went ahead with industrial action, which caused significant upheaval to the lives of those they claim to stand up for.’

The RMT has not ruled out more industrial action, but it will have to give two weeks’ notice.

Other rail unions are also involved. The white collar union TSSA is balloting its members at Avanti West Coast, and a future walkout there could affect operational managers as well, who will not then be available to stand in for absent staff. TSSA is also balloting more than 6,000 Network Rail staff for strikes and action short of a strike as the disputes worsen, while ASLEF, which represents most drivers, is balloting its members at nine other operators.

Elsewhere, London tram drivers are staging two 48-hour strikes on 28-29 June and 13-14 July, while open access operator Hull Trains had faced disruption yesterday, when its ASLEF drivers were set to walk out for the day, but the union called off the strike. Hull Trains said ‘meaningful talks’ had taken place.

source= http://www.railnews.co.uk/news/2022/06/27-rmt-leader-tells-government-to.html