Rail strikes: Government accused of ‘pouring petrol on the fire’

rail strikes

Ministers “want the country to come to a standstill so they can feed off the division,” claims Keir Starmer (Image: PA/REX).

The government has been accused of “pouring fuel on the fire” by boycotting negotiations ahead of “the biggest rail strike in modern history”.

Millions of people will get their plans mixed up this week – including school children traveling to exams, patients going to hospital appointments and festival goers heading to Glastonbury.

Union leader Sir Keir Starmer has accused the Tories of “wanting the country to stand still so they can feed off the divide” after ministers admitted they last met with union officials on May 13 .

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has insisted he cannot take part in discussions over pay disputes as it is a matter between employers and unions – although he admits the Government is controlling purses post-Covid lockdown.

In a speech in Warwick today, the opposition leader is set to slam the Conservatives for their “inaction” after it was confirmed yesterday that a bitter dispute over salaries, potential job losses and working conditions has not been resolved.

“Companies will struggle with the freight. School exams will be difficult to achieve. missed hospital appointments. That’s why I said the strikes shouldn’t continue,” Sir Keir will say.

“But here’s the truth, Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps want the strikes to continue.”

“They want the country to come to a standstill so they can feed off the division.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock (10314830e) Crowds build up on SW rail trains due to reduced service due to RMT workers' strike and are heaviest at the end of the suburban commuter concourse. Passengers await messages from their trains in the concourse at Waterloo Station, London. Train Strike, Waterloo, London, UK - 18 June 2019

The biggest strikes in decades take place from Tuesday this week (Image: Guy Bell/REX/Shutterstock)

“Instead of spending their time at the negotiating table this week, they are drafting attack ads.

“Instead of having adult conversations to take the heat out of the situation, they add fuel to the fire.

“Instead of bringing people together in the national interest, they fuel division in their political interest.”

He will claim that his party “seeks a common aspiration for a common cause, a partnership to bring people together, solve problems and seize opportunities”.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union offered to hold sit-down talks with the government this week.

Some rail companies still have not invited workers to talks or offered wages ahead of strikes, the general secretary of the RMT union said today.

Mick Lynch said: “We are looking for a pay rise that reflects the cost of living.”

Mr Shapps dodged questions about the job cuts this morning, insisting the workforce needed to be “transformed”.

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Wiktor Szymanowicz/REX/Shutterstock (12974195f) Commuters form large queues for buses outside Victoria Station during the morning rush hour as London Underground services are severely disrupted due to labor disputes. RMT union members are staging a 24-hour strike amid an ongoing dispute with Transport for London over jobs and pensions. Underground workers' strike disrupts transport, London, UK - 06 June 2022

Unions targeted a week when children have exams and people travel to Glastonbury (Image: Wiktor Szymanowicz/REX/Shutterstock)

“Of course it’s a reality that if we can’t modernize these railroads, if we can’t achieve the kind of efficiencies that mean they can work in the interests of the traveling public, that of course jeopardizes the future of the railroad itself’, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday.

“I think it’s a huge act of self-harm to go on strike at the moment. I don’t think the workers are as militant as their unions that lead them to the garden path. They shoot at this strike. It’s totally unnecessary.”

He also lashed out at Sir Keir yesterday, claiming the Labor leader had secretly backed the strikes despite his public statements about how they must be avoided.

Regarding Sir Keir’s claims, a spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “The Government has pledged £16billion – or £600 per household – to keep our railways running during the pandemic while ensuring not a single worker loses their job.

“The railroad is still on life support, ridership is down 25% and anything that drives more of them away risks destroying services and jobs.

“For millions of people, traveling by train is now a choice, not a necessity. Strikes discourage our customers from choosing rail and they may never return.”

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Justin Scacco

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