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Thursday, June 30, 2022

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Rail strike: Thursday walkout to go forward as talks collapse

Crowds Of Passengers At Kings Cross StationPA Media

The rail strike on Thursday will go forward after talks between the RMT union and railway employers broke down.

The RMT accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “wrecking” negotiations by refusing to permit Network Rail to withdraw redundancy threats.

Mr Shapps referred to as the declare “a total lie”, including the union was solely responsible for the “massive disruption”.

Millions have been affected on Tuesday, the beginning of the most important strike in a long time, and one other walkout is due on Saturday.

A Network Rail supply instructed the BBC there had been little progress in Wednesday’s talks and, if something, the union’s place appeared to have hardened. No new pay supply was made.

Mick Lynch, normal secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) employees’ union, stated: “Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.

“Until the federal government unshackle Network Rail and the prepare working corporations, it’s not going to be doable for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.”

He said the industrial action affecting services across Britain will continue until the union gets a deal giving job security and a pay rise that “offers with the escalating value of living disaster”.

Mr Shapps said he had no involvement in Network Rail’s letter, adding that he understood it did not mention the 2,900 redundancies claimed by the RMT.

The Department of Transport has said the rail industry is leading the negotiations, but a contract seen by the BBC says that train operating companies’ handling of strike action is “topic to the secretary of state’s course”.

Speaking earlier today, Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said about 1,800 jobs were expected to be cut but the “the overwhelming majority” would be through “voluntary severance and pure wastage”.

The government-run rail infrastructure company is also asking the RMT to enter talks on “dumping outdated working practices and introducing new know-how”, he stated.

The RMT is calling for a pay rise of at least 7% to offset the cost of living crisis, as inflation hits 9.1% and is forecast to reach 11% in the autumn.

Employers have offered a maximum of 3%, on condition that the union accepts new working practices.

But rail employers said they had suffered a loss of income, with passenger numbers only at 80% of pre-pandemic levels.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, said it wanted to give “a good deal on pay whereas taking not more than its justifiable share from taxpayers”, which meant modernising the railway to attract passengers back.

Passengers In At King'S Cross

PA Media

Thursday’s strike is set have a similar impact to the first day of industrial action, with half of the network closed and only 20% of services running. But Tuesday’s Tube strike in London is not due to be repeated.

The second day of strikes will also coincide with a yellow Met Office weather warning for a thunderstorm across much of southern England, which could further hamper travel plans.

With 48 hours’ notice, disruption on Saturday could be avoided if a deal is agreed, it is understood.

On Tuesday, the prime minister urged the country to “keep the course” and resist high pay rises, as the walkout by about 40,000 RMT members working for Network Rail left many parts of the country with no rail service at all.

Disruption continued on Wednesday, with only about 60% of normal services running.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson and the transport secretary of not “lifting a finger” to cease the strikes.

Commuters Gather At The Entrance For Paddington Underground Station

PA Media

He instructed the Commons: “The prime minister of this nation and his transport secretary have not attended a single assembly, held a dialog or lifted a finger to cease these strikes…

“So rather than blame everyone else why doesn’t he do his job, get round the table and get the trains running?”

Mr Johnson responded that the federal government was doing “everything we can to prevent these strikes” and it was as much as the railway corporations to barter.

He stated 25 Labour MPs having joined picket traces to again strikers was “a disgrace” and accused Sir Keir of not having the “gumption to speak out against the rail strikes”.

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‘We are stranded because of the strike’

Adam Taylor

Adam Taylor

Adam Taylor, from Scotland, and his mom are caught in Windsor, Berkshire, after their prepare was cancelled on Wednesday.

The pair had been visiting household when the strike disrupted their return home. They have solely managed to get new tickets for Monday.

“It’s annoying,” Mr Taylor stated. “I’ve only just started getting back on my feet after the pandemic and losing a week of work will really set me back again.”

The disruption additionally means his mom, who makes use of a wheelchair, has to get her treatment delivered to Berkshire.

“I’m totally against the striking,” he provides. “It’s putting me right back to the beginning again in terms of my work and it has put stress on my family…

“The world is simply too grasping.”

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Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said he understood unions felt they should fight their workers’ corner.

But he said there was a risk that if the RMT was successful in its pay rise claim it would stimulate pressures on inflation that would keep it higher for longer.

“That will solely harm the bottom paid and most susceptible in our communities extra,” he added.

Meanwhile, the government is planning to introduce a new law this week to make it legal for employers to bring in agency staff to replace striking workers – but it will not impact the planned rail strikes on Thursday and Saturday.

Additional reporting by Jessica Sherwood

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