The RMT has accused the government of preventing agreement in the long running rail disputes because of its political agenda.
Staff are walking out again today at Network Rail and most train operators, and only one in five trains are expected to run, with many lines closed entirely. Operators have been urging their passengers not to try to travel. Although ScotRail and Transport for Wales staff are not striking, most trains will not run in England, Scotland or Wales because Network Rail signallers will be absent.
There will be a further London Underground strike tomorrow and another National Rail stoppage on Saturday, which will again affect most of the network.
One major point of contention is that transport secretary Grant Shapps has refused to become involved in the negotiations, saying the dispute is between the unions, Network Rail and the operators, but they are all state controlled since the operators’ franchises were ended. Network Rail is wholly nationalised, and is an ‘arms’ length’ government agency.
In a letter to Mr Shapps, the RMT has said: ‘Your government has made the decision to use taxpayers’ money to bail out private train companies from being liable for revenue lost because of industrial action on the condition the same companies comply with government instructions to hold down pay, cut thousands of safety critical rail jobs, introduce Driver Only Trains and close ticket offices across the network.
‘Using taxpayers’ money to satisfy the anti-union agenda of the Tory party and seek to break the trade unions is shameful and means the dispute will be prolonged indefinitely as the train companies don’t lose a penny as a result of the industrial action and therefore have no incentive to settle the disputes.’
Mr Lynch, speaking to the BBC from a picket line, said Mr Shapps was ’locked into a cycle where he’s got to appease two really right-wing candidates” in the Conservative leadership race’.
He said the union had calculated that, including the previous and forthcoming action, over £120 million of taxpayers’ money had been used to bail out private train companies to date.
‘Instead of waging an ideological war against rail workers millions of voters would rather that the government allow for a fair negotiated settlement’, he added.
The transport secretary said: ‘It’s clear from their co-ordinated approach that the unions are hell-bent on causing as much misery as possible to the very same taxpayers who stumped up £600 per household to ensure not a single rail worker lost their job during the pandemic.’