A union leader has warned the rail dispute could drag on “indefinitely” as the latest strike by thousands of workers has caused travel problems for passengers.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, has called on the government to end its stance of refusing to get involved in talks on pay, jobs and conditions .
He joined a picket line outside Euston station in London as only around one in five trains were running across the country due to walkouts by members of the RMT and TSSA unions.
Mr Lynch wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, saying: ‘Your government has made the decision to use taxpayers’ money to bail out private rail companies from liability for lost revenue due to the action on condition that the same companies comply with government instructions to maintain wages, cut thousands of safety-critical rail jobs, introduce driver-only trains and close ticket offices across the network.
Mr Lynch said the union had calculated that, including previous and forthcoming industrial action, more than £120m of taxpayers’ money had been used to ‘bail out’ private rail companies to date .
He told the PA news agency: ‘Using taxpayers’ money to satisfy the Conservative Party’s union-busting agenda and seeking to bust unions is shameful and means the dispute will drag on indefinitely because the rail companies are not losing a penny as a result of industrial action and therefore have no incentive to settle disputes.
“Instead of waging an ideological war against the railway workers, millions of voters would rather see the government allow a fair negotiated settlement.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘Once again, for the sixth time since June, union leaders are choosing to inflict hardship and disrupt the daily lives of millions of people instead of working with industry to strike a deal that will bring our railways into the 21st century.
“Today, thousands of A-level students across the country, many of whom have spent the majority of their college years studying at home due to the pandemic, are now being denied the opportunity to celebrate their hard work. and their face-to-face dedication with their peers and teachers.
“Clearly strikes are no longer the powerful tool they once were and union bosses are no longer in a position to cripple the country because unlike them the world has changed and people are simply working from home.
“All of these strikes are hurting those whom the unions claim to represent, many of whom will again be disbursed and forced to miss a day of work.
“We urge union bosses to do the right thing with their members and let them have their say on Network Rail’s very fair deal, which will deliver the reforms our rail system urgently needs.
“It’s time to get off the picket lines and back to the bargaining table – the future of our railroad depends on it.
Ru Roberts of satellite navigation company Waze said: “Due to the RMT strikes, UK motorways have been hit with significant disruption, particularly around major cities such as London, Manchester and Birmingham.
“We are currently seeing heavy traffic on major arterial roads such as the M42, with reported speeds of 12mph, as well as surrounding major tube stations including Edware and Brixton, with speeds as low as 3mph.
“In the midst of summer holiday traffic, we advise drivers, particularly those traveling to and from Premier League matches, to prepare for slower journeys, to check all route options before setting off and take regular breaks on long journeys.”