Ministers slammed after admitting not meeting RMT over strikes for a month

·2-min read
NHS patients have been urged to plan their travel ahead of the rail strikes next week (PA) (PA Archive)
NHS patients have been urged to plan their travel ahead of the rail strikes next week (PA) (PA Archive)

Ministers have admitted that they haven’t held talks with the Rail and Maritime Union since the middle of last month, as commuters brace themselves for a wave of strike disruption next week.

Transport Minister Wendy Morton said in a written Parliamentary answer published on Thursday that the last time ministers met with officials from the RMT was 13 May.

The RMT is planning to hit London with a “double whammy” of walk-outs, on the rail network and Underground on Tuesday, followed by two more days of rail strikes which will inflict around a week of travel chaos.

The union claims Network Rail plans to axe up to 2,500 jobs as part of a £2 billion savings programme, including workers who maintain tracks, signals and overhead lines.

With the number of train passengers having fallen, with more now working from home, rail chiefs argue that between 1,500 and 2,000 fewer staff will be needed but that these cuts could be made by voluntary means.

The Government has been urging the union to get around the table with rail chiefs to thrash out a deal but has repeatedly maintained that it is not for ministers to directly intervene.

In her answer to the Lib Dem MP Sarah Olney, Ms Morton confirmed: “There have be no meetings between ministers and officials at the RMT union to discuss rail matters since 13 May 2022.

“The rail disputes are between individual employers and the trade unions and it would not be prudent for Government to intervene in this relationship.

“We encourage meaningful discussions and for the trade unions to return to the negotiating table in order to end these rail strikes which impact businesses, users and the general public.”

But Ms Olney accused Ministers of “twiddling their thumbs whilst innocent passengers suffer”.

She also turned up the heat on Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, saying: “Commuters and holiday goers will be thinking what on earth has Grant Shapps been doing all this time?

“He gets paid to keep the country moving but hasn’t even bothered to sort this mess out.

"The unions shouldn’t be inflicting misery on millions of passengers yet Grant Shapps is just as much to blame for failing to even meet with them."

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