Union 'punishing millions' with next week's rail strike, transport secretary warns

18 June 2022, 22:31 | Updated: 19 June 2022, 08:30

Grant Shapps said strikes next week will punish hard-working people
Grant Shapps said strikes next week will punish hard-working people. Picture: Alamy

By Asher McShane

The Transport Secretary has accused rail union members of "punishing millions of innocent people" by pressing ahead with next week's train strikes.

Grant Shapps said the Rail, Maritime and Transport union had repeatedly been urged not to go ahead with the "damaging" strikes and instead concentrate on negotiating a deal.

Mr Shapps said: "Sadly they have ignored these requests time and again, and we are now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country.

"Many people who do not get paid if they can't get to work face losing money at a time they simply can't afford to.

"Children sitting exams will face the extra distraction of changing their travel plans.

"And vulnerable people trying to attend long-awaited hospital appointments may have no choice but to cancel.

Next week's rail strike will be the biggest action in decades
Next week's rail strike will be the biggest action in decades. Picture: Alamy

Read more: Everything you need to know about next week's rail strikes

"By carrying out this action the RMT is punishing millions of innocent people, instead of calmly discussing the sensible and necessary reforms we need to make in order to protect our rail network."

Mr Shapps said the strikes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week risk disrupting a range of sectors across the country, causing "misery" to the general public.

Earlier today it was confirmed the strike will go ahead next week after talks failed to resolve the row over pay, jobs and conditions.

Staff will walk out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday because "no viable settlements to the disputes have been created", the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said in a statement.

'Things are heading in the direction' of a UK general strike

Half of Britain's rail lines will close completely during the strikes, with a reduced timetable in place from Monday through to Sunday.Health bosses warned the walkouts could result in people dying, with medics not being able to get to work, while Mr Shapps said rail workers risk "striking yourselves out of a job".

The action by tens of thousands of rail workers will cripple services for most of the week - with passengers urged to avoid travelling.

The disruption is on a collision course with Glastonbury, the England v New Zealand test in Leeds, and GCSE exams - to name a few.

The RMT said workers are striking as Network Rail is lining up 2,500 job cuts in rail maintenance.As well as the looming threat of job cuts, workers are also striking over pay, demanding an increase in line with inflation.

Caller explains why we should support striking rail workers

The RMT said it's held discussions with Network Rail over the past few weeks, train operators and London Underground - but no viable settlement has been reached.RMT general secretary Mick Lynch called for a "better deal for workers" and a "fairer society" as he confirmed that strikes at Network Rail and 13 train operators, and the London Underground, will go ahead."Every worker in Britain deserves a pay rise that reflects the cost-of-living crises," he said.

Read more: Minister calls on Mayor of London to drop congestion charge on rail strike days

Read more: Rail strikes could 'end up killing people': warning from health chiefs ahead of walkout

"All working people should have the benefit of good negotiated terms, conditions, working practices and occupational pensions that will ensure their living standards in retirement.

"We call on the entire labour movement and the working people to rally to the support of the RMT and our members in this struggle.

"The RMT will support every group of workers who organise and fight for these aims and we call for joint campaigning and coordinated action to achieve a better deal for workers and a fairer society.

"RMT remains available for discussions that will settle this dispute and ensure our transport system can operate without disruption."

He previously told LBC rail staff "aren't being paid enough".