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Mick Lynch claims Grant Shapps must ‘loosen shackles on companies’ – train strikes

Mick Lynch claims Grant Shapps must ‘loosen shackles on companies’ - train strikes
Education secretary slams RMT Union workers as ‘holding the country hostage’

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Train strike: Mick Lynch blames Grant Shapps for deadlock on pay

Rail passengers face nightmare journeys today as new nationwide train strikes begin, with only one-fifth of services expected to run.

Around 45,000 workers employed by Network Rail and 14 train operators ‒ members of the RMT Union ‒ are walking out for 24 hours due to a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

Education secretary James Cleverly slammed the transport workers on strike, telling Sky News they were “holding the country hostage” and “disadvantaging people trying to get to work”.

Meanwhile, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said that if transport secretary Grant Shapps “loosened the shackles” on train companies, a deal could be reached very quickly and the railways could “get back to normal”.

He added that unions could start calling for “generalised and synchronised” strikes indefinitely due to widespread anger over low pay in the face of a cost of living crisis.

“There is a wave of reaction amongst working people to the way they’re being treated. People are getting poorer every day of the week,” he told Sky News.

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Railways can get back to normal if Shapps ‘loosens shackles’ on train companies, claims Lynch

RMT union chief Mick Lynch has claimed that the railways can get “back to normal” if transport secretary Grant Shapps “loosens the shackles” on train companies.

Speaking to The Mirror, Mr Lynch said: “If the government changes its stance and Grant Shapps loosens the shackles on these companies, we can get a deal very quickly and we can get the railways back to normal.”

However, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said that the government has nothing to do with negotiations.

A DfT spokesperson said: “We’ve been very clear that the Government and the Transport Secretary is not involved in negotiations. It is a matter for unions and employers – not Government – to engage in meaningful talks to avoid damaging strike action and prevent chaos on the railways.

“This has long been the convention and has been the Government’s position under Labour and Conservative governments.”

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Strike ‘not the powerful tool they once were,’ claims DfT

The Department for Transport has claimed that strikes “are not the powerful tool they once were”.

Responding to union chief Mick Lynch’s criticism of transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning, a DfT spokesperson said: “Union chiefs are no longer able to bring the country to a standstill as, unlike them, the world has changed and people simply work from home.

“All these strikes are doing is hurting those people the unions claim to represent, many of whom will again be out of pocket and forced to miss a day’s work.

“We urge union bosses to do the right thing by 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 around the negotiating table – the future of our railway depends on it.”

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Opinion: ‘So many at work feel stuck – I have sympathy for striking rail staff’

“Already, there are howls about how the unions are taking over and how RMT workers are selfish, and so on and so forth. But I cannot help but sympathise,” writes Harry Readhead for The Independent’s Voices section.

”Many of those striking worked all the way through the pandemic, putting themselves at risk. And some of them, as the RMT’s assistant general secretary, Eddie Dempsey, has said, are in the third year of a pay freeze.

“’Most of our membership are on around £24,000,’ he said. ‘We don’t think it’s unreasonable to say [when inflation] is at 11.1 per cent, we want a pay rise.’

“I don’t think that is unreasonable either.”

Read the full article here:

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‘Extreme volatility when the traveller yearns for tranquility’ – Simon Calder

In his most recent commentary on the worst summer for rail strikes since the 1980s, Simon Calder, travel correspondent of The Independent, writes: “Talking privately to some rail staff, it is clear that they feel undervalued. They worked through the Covid-19 pandemic and are now seeing their pay eroded by raging inflation.

“They want a reasonable pay rise, reassurance about job losses and to trade more efficient working for extra percentages on their wages. All fair demands, which they believe can only be achieved by walking out repeatedly until the government caves in.”

Yet, he writes, while the rail unions assure their members that ministers will eventually meet their demands, that expectation may not be realised.

“Through August, the financial damage caused by the strikes is being soaked up by the taxpayer. Come September, the arrival of a new prime minister will be accompanied by some savage spending cuts. Surely, though, the railway is immune thanks to its environmental credentials? Sadly, it is fanciful to imagine either contender for the Conservative leadership really gives two hoots for the planet.”

He concludes:“A long, hot summer for rail workers; a punishing time for passengers; and a government that is either on holiday or (in the case of the transport secretary, Grant Shapps) too wrapped up in the battle for No 10.

“It all adds up to extreme volatility when the traveller yearns for tranquility.”

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Disruption will continue for weeks ahead on Avanti West Coast

Even when the latest national rail strikes end, travellers to London Euston from the West Midlands, northwest England, north Wales and southern Scotland face weeks of disruption.

Avanti West Coast brought in an emergency timetable this week that will continue until 11 September at the earliest. It blamed “the current industrial relations climate which has resulted in severe staff shortages in some grades through increased sickness levels, as well as the majority of drivers making themselves unavailable for overtime in a co-ordinated fashion, and at short notice”.

The biggest reductions are on services linking Birmingham and Manchester with London – cut to just one train an hour rather than three.

Cuts are also being made to trains serving Chester and North Wales, and from London via the West Midlands to Edinburgh.

Typically Avanti West Coast relies on 250 drivers per day working on their rest days – covering around 400 passenger trains.

Sources say that number dropped dramatically overnight – by almost 90 per cent.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, wrote in a tweet: “Unions now stopping drivers volunteering – causing misery for public & staff who won’t get paid.”

Avanti West Coast says it wants to “ensure a reliable service is delivered so our customers can travel with greater certainty” – though it recognises that the emergency timetable will cause “enormous frustration and inconvenience”.

But Mick Whelan, general secretary of Aslef, says there is an overwhelming mandate for industrial action on Avanti West Coast.

He told The Independent: “When you lose goodwill and we go on strike, people not then coming in to work overtime is the first thing that normally happens.”

You can read more about the emergency schedule here:

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Friday: ‘Avoid travelling on the Tube’, warns Transport for London

A strike by staff working for the London Underground and buses is sandwiched between the two national rail strikes. Around 10,000 workers will walk out.

Transport for London (TfL) is telling would-be travellers on Friday 19 August: “Tube and bus strikes are taking place which will affect the majority of TfL’s services.

“In addition, there will be minimal service on the national rail network until around 8am following strike from the previous day.

“Customers are advised to avoid travelling on the Tube and only travel on the rest of the network if essential.”

Looking ahead to Saturday, the organisation warns of reduced services on the London Overground and the new Elizabeth line.

There will be no service on the District line between Wimbledon and Parson’s Green, and Richmond and Turnham Green before 8am and after 6pm, and no service at all on the Bakerloo line northwest of Queen’s Park.

In addition, says TfL: “There are also strikes affecting some bus services on 20 August that will affect routes in west and southwest London and parts of Surrey.

“London Trams will also have a reduced service on 20 August due to strike action.”

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Two parts of the UK have trains running normally

The national strike has caused around 16,000 train cancellations – but only in England, Wales and Scotland.

In Northern Ireland, services are running normally, with on-time departures from Great Victoria Street station in Belfast to Portadown, Larne, Bangor and Derry-Londonderry.

One part of Great Britain has trains keeping to the usual schedule: the Isle of Wight.

The first train running anywhere in Britain today, the 5.45am from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin arrived at its destination, eight miles south, one minute early. The last train leaves Ryde at 11.15pm tonight.

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‘This strike is not about my pay’: Network Rail boss defends £590,000 salary

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines has dismissed questions about his £590,000 salary, as rail workers go on strike over pay and conditions.

A BBC Breakfast reporter pointed out Mr Haines’ April pay rise from £544,000 to £590,000, saying: “It’s a huge amount of money to people listening to this. How do you defend that?”

Mr Haines responded: “What happened was I took a pay cut the previous year, so my salary this coming year will be exactly the same as in 2018.

“That was just reflecting the fact that I volunteered… to take a short-term pay cut. It wasn’t a pay rise.”

He added that he “really understands why people are worried about cost of living”, but insisted: “I’m well paid, but this strike is not about my pay. People are not going on strike about how much I earn.”

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Unions on the brink of ‘synchronised’ strikes, says Mick Lynch

The RMT union boss Mick Lynch has suggested that unions could start calling for “generalised and synchronised” strikes, due to widespread anger over low pay in the face of a cost of living crisis.

Talking to Sky News from the picket line, Mr Lynch said: “There is a wave of reaction amongst working people to the way they’re being treated. People are getting poorer every day of the week.

“People can’t pay their bills. They’re getting treated despicably at the workplace. I think there will be generalised and synchronised action. It may not be in a traditional form.

“But we’ve seen the Post Office workers and BT [take industrial action], we’ve seen the bus workers in London out on strike tomorrow and over the weekend.

“I think there is a massive response coming from working people because they’re fed up with the way they’ve been treated.”

When asked about the prospect of a generalised strike, Mr Lynch said: “Only the TUC can call a general strike.”

On Friday, four separate groups will walk out in separate, coinciding strikes that will put much of London’s transport network out of action.

They are: RMT Union workers employed by TFL and London Underground; members of the Unite union employed at London Underground, Croydon Tramlink, Victoria coach station, Dial-a-Ride and river service; London Overground workers employed by Arriva Rail London; and around 1,600 bus drivers who are members of the Unite union and employed by London United.

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Passengers trapped in locked station after train arrived over 90 minutes late

Around 30 passengers were stranded in a locked Lake District station late on Tuesday night, after their train arrived more than an hour and a half late.

The train travellers disembarked the Avanti West Coast train at Oxenholme, near Kendal in Cumbria, at about midnight on 16 August, nearly two hours after their London Euston to Glasgow service was due to arrive at 10.20pm.

Passenger Jonathan Gilmore told BBC Radio Cumbria that the only options the stranded passengers had were to climb the spiked gate, which was at least 7ft high, walk across the live tracks, or “pick somewhere to try and sleep on a pavement until the morning”.

Read the full story: