TRANSPORT secretary Grant Shapps threatened rail workers’ jobs yesterday by saying: ‘Rail strikes will drive passengers away and threaten rather than protect rail workers’ jobs.’
The transport secretary, in a speech at a train depot in north London, demanded unions call off next week’s strikes, with thousands of workers set to walk out on 21, 23 and 25 June.
He added that season ticket holders ‘will be able to claim full compensation on strike days’ starting from next week.
Shapps said: ‘The timing of these rail strikes were designed to inflict damage at the worst possible time.’
He said the walkouts would cause ‘misery’ for workers, those heading to Glastonbury festival, and students sitting the 17 public exams over the strike period.
Shapps said that commuters who, three years ago had no alternative but to take the train, now have other options like Zoom meetings.
‘Wave them goodbye, and it will endanger the jobs of thousands of rail workers,’ he threatened.
He said unions were ‘alienating’ passengers and freight customers with ‘long and damaging strikes’.
Grant Shapps said: ‘Your union bosses have driven you to the verge of a national strike under false pretences. And rather than protect your jobs, they are actually threatening your jobs.’
The transport secretary was asked repeatedly why he could not meet with the unions and Network Rail, to try and avert next week’s strikes.
In response, Shapps said: ‘I can’t settle this,’ adding that ‘it is for employers to negotiate pay’ and ‘they set the terms and contracts’.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union has announced strike action on Tuesday 21, Thursday 23 and Saturday 25 June. This action is coordinated across Network Rail and other train operating companies.
Network Rail said yesterday: ‘Only around half of Britain’s rail network will be open on strike days with a very limited service running on lines that are open from around 07:30 until 18:30.
‘On the days that follow the strikes (Wednesday 22, Friday 24 and Sunday 26 June) the whole network will reopen but you should also expect disruption on these days, until services recover to a normal service.’
Network Rail announced that it was organising strike breakers saying: ‘Thousands of specially trained and fully qualified back-up staff will step-in during the planned RMT walk-outs on 21st June, 23rd and 25th to keep vital services running, but as they are a fraction of the usual workforce, only a severely limited service will be available.’
Mick Lynch RMT general secretary accused Shapps of ‘making disgraceful threats to railway workers’ livelihoods and their right to strike’.