Welwyn Hatfield Labour calls on Grant Shapps to negotiate over rail strikes
- Credit: PA
Welwyn Hatfield Labour has called on Grant Shapps to get round the negotiating table and find a resolution to the rail strikes causing travel chaos across the UK.
Thousands of rail staff across the country walked out on Tuesday and Thursday, with further strikes coming on Saturday, and until a resolution to their attempts to secure a 7 per cent pay increase is found.
With passengers and commuters in Welwyn Hatfield severely impacted by the strikes, Labour has called on Mr Shapps to come to the negotiating table and ‘get the country moving again’.
“We join calls urging you to meet with RMT representatives and rail operators to resolve the rail strike, get the country moving again, and ensure fair pay and good conditions for rail workers,” read a letter to the Welwyn Hatfield MP.
“You will be aware that we are experiencing the biggest fall in living standards in generations.
“Your government has committed to a 'levelling-up' agenda with a 'high-wage' economy, but the reality is weekly wages are back to 2008 levels, and in the absence of meaningful action by your government people are having to take matters into their own hands so that they can pay their energy bills and feed their families.
“Workers are facing a real term pay cut with inflation increasing, and the reality is most rail workers have not had a pay increase in between two and three years and need better pay to keep up with the soaring cost of living.
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“Of course, this isn't solely about pay. There are concerns that safety-critical roles are being cut in order to make savings for rail companies.
“Additionally, plans by your department to impose a 'minimum service requirement' during transport workers' strike action will undermine workers ability to protest and withdraw their labour to secure positive changes to their pay and working conditions.
“Any plans to introduce this should be immediately withdrawn.”
Welwyn Hatfield Labour were also quick to point out Mr Shapps’ praise of rail workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Back in February 2021 you hailed transport workers as heroes, saying, ‘throughout this pandemic, our transport heroes have been at the frontline keeping the country moving. Now they are stepping up yet again to help deliver the vaccinations and get people to vaccination centres, helping us fight back from COVID-19',” they continued.
“The fact that they have now taken strike action, when they were willing to work in such challenging conditions during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is not only a testament to their resolve and dedication to their profession, but actively demonstrates the depth of their concerns at the situation they now find themselves in.”
Despite repeated claims by Mr Shapps that it would be wrong for him to come to the negotiating table, Welwyn Hatfield Labour believe it is the only way a conclusion to the strikes will be reached.
“You've used your many media appearances to stress that your involvement would only hinder the negotiating process, the truth is without you and your department sitting down at the table, there can be no settlement reached as there is no negotiating mandate for the rail operators,” they said.
“In practice this means that Train Operating Companies are stuck in a state of limbo, unable to enter proper and meaningful negotiations because of the rule changes you introduced.
"If you really want to minimise disruption you would be doing everything you can, including getting around the negotiating table.
“You hold the cards in this situation and can resolve this strike action by ensuring rail companies offer a fair wage in line with inflation, to their workers.”
Strikes continue after RMT general secretary Mick Lynch accused Mr Shapps of ‘wrecking negotiations’
“Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members,” he said.
“Until the Government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.
“We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost-of-living crisis.”
Firing back, the transport secretary said: “The RMT continues to deflect from the fact that the only people responsible for the massive public disruption this week is them.”