Grant Shapps hits out at unions ahead of rail strike chaos

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps delivers a speech to set out the Government's vision to create a re

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has claimed railway workers are striking under 'false pretences'. - Credit: PA

Passengers in Welwyn Hatfield and Potters Bar face severe disruption this week as the biggest rail strikes in 30 years go ahead.

Thousands of staff at Network Rail, Great Northern, Thameslink and rail companies across the country are due to walk out on Thursday and Saturday - following a day of action on Tuesday - with services affected from Monday evening and disruption continuing on non-strike days this week.

Just 20 per cent of trains are understood to be running during strikes and passengers are being advised to avoid all but essential travel.

The RMT is striking over what it calls ‘an aggressive agenda’ of cuts to jobs, conditions, pay and pensions, with Mick Lynch, secretary general of the RMT union, claiming the government did not allow employers to negotiate freely in their attempts to secure a 7 per cent pay increase.

Welwyn Hatfield MP and transport secretary Grant Shapps claimed calls for him to come to the negotiating table as a ‘stunt’.

“The reality is they're using it as a camouflage for the fact they've walked out of the talks that they should be in with their employers,” he said.

He also claimed that workers were striking under ‘false pretences’, adding: “It's about outdated unions opposing progress, progress that will secure the future of the railway.

Most Read

“Your union bosses have got you striking under false pretences and, rather than protecting your jobs, they are actually endangering them and the railway's future.”

In an effort to ease the impact of the strikes, Mr Shapps confirmed he would change the law in the next two months to allow workers with transferable skills to fill roles left by striking workers.

“It means that if some person is sat in Network Rail's control room and they're sat at a screen, at the moment they may not move to another screen even though they're fully qualified to do so, without union permission for example,” he said.

"This makes no sense. It's not the way that any normal business or organisation would operate.

"You're changing what is called agency, but it actually will allow us to have transferrable skills within Network Rail.”