RMT strike is ‘cynically timed for Commonwealth Games’, says Grant Shapps

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The strike will take place the day before the start of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham

A new rail strike will take place at the end of July, with fears it will disrupt spectators heading to the opening of the Commonwealth Games.

Rail workers are to stage a fresh strike in the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions. Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at train companies and Network Rail will walk out for 24 hours on July 27 - one day before Birmingham 2022 gets underway.

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Union leaders made the announcement after rejecting a new offer from Network Rail which they described as “paltry”. The offer was for a 4% pay rise backdated to January, another 2% next year and a further 2% conditional on achieving “modernisation milestones”.

Grand Central Train Station and New Street Mall Birmingham UKGrand Central Train Station and New Street Mall Birmingham UK
Grand Central Train Station and New Street Mall Birmingham UK | Grand Central Train Station and New Street Mall Birmingham UK

The RMT said it has yet to receive a pay offer or guarantees over job losses from the train operating companies (TOCs). The RMT said it will be consulting other unions that have delivered mandates for strike action in the coming days, amid talk of co-ordinated walkouts.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “The offer from Network Rail represents a real terms pay cut for our members and the paltry sum is conditional on RMT members agreeing to drastic changes in their working lives. We have made progress on compulsory redundancies, but Network Rail are still seeking to make our members poorer when we have won in some cases double what they are offering, with other rail operators.

“The train operating companies remain stubborn and are refusing to make any new offer which deals with job security and pay. Strike action is the only course open to us to make both the rail industry and Government understand that this dispute will continue for as long as it takes, until we get a negotiated settlement.

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“The public who will be inconvenienced by our strike action need to understand that it is the Government’s shackling of Network Rail and the TOCs that means the rail network will be shut down for 24 hours.”

The RMT held three strikes last month which crippled services across the country.

File photo dated 20/6/2022 of Transport Secretary Grant ShappsFile photo dated 20/6/2022 of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
File photo dated 20/6/2022 of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps

‘Strike is cynically timed for the day before the Commonwealth Games’

Speaking about the strike, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: “The railway must reform and modernise, and yesterday the RMT were offered a fair deal which would see salaries of their members rise by up to 8% after two years to deliver just that. Yet the RMT has already opted for more destructive strikes and is hellbent on causing further misery for people across the country.

“The average rail worker already earns £44,000, significantly more than the people who will be most impacted by their walkout – the very same people who stumped up £600 per household to keep the railway running throughout the pandemic and ensure not a single person lost their job. It’s clear now, however, that no deal was ever going to be good enough for the RMT, and the negotiations over recent weeks have merely been for show while they plan how best to cause further chaos.

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“Chaos cynically timed for the day before the Commonwealth Games begins, in a bid to disrupt the travel of thousands trying to attend an event the whole country is looking forward to. The industry is already on life support and by insisting on working against its employers, instead of with them, the RMT risks pulling the plug for good.”

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “It is incredibly frustrating the RMT has again chosen to disrupt our passengers, and even more so that they haven’t even put what was a fair and affordable two-year pay offer to their members. It is also deeply worrying that these strikes have clearly been designed to disrupt spectators heading to the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on 28 July, an event of huge national significance.

“We have been clear that we can only fund an increase from our own budgets, and the only way we can afford that is by modernising working practices. The RMT’s rejection of our latest offer can only mean they want a pay increase to be funded either by more taxpayer support or higher passenger fares, neither of which we think are fair.

“We urge the RMT to call this action off, get back round the table with us and show some willingness to compromise.”

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