RMT regional boss says rail strikes could continue until Christmas

·3-min read
Rail strikes could continue till Christmas
Rail strikes could continue till Christmas

RAILWAY workers across the whole network are striking for better pay and working conditions and have begun their official pickets.

The workers who are members of the union RMT are not turning up for work, with services from TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast, Northern and ScotRail seeing cancellations throughout this week.

Craig Johnston, the RMT relief regional organiser for the North, said while picketing on June 21 that these strikes are 'just the beginning' and may continue till Christmas.

But he said: “None of us want to be here.”

Craig explained that the union was offered a two per cent pay rise, despite inflation rates expected to hit 11 per cent.

He said this offer was untenable and explained: “Coupled with that, there’s a huge attack on jobs and it is proposed that 3,000 jobs should be slashed.

“These are safety-critical jobs.”

READ MORE: Stations deserted as start of rail strike means no early-morning trains

There are concerns that pay rises would come at a cost for the taxpayer as Network Rail is state-subsidised, Craig replied: “Railways have always been subsidised but in the middle of the Covid pandemic the private train companies can the leased companies were able to take out £5million in profit.

“We’re not asking for an additional (£2,200) a year as MPs got, or £500,000 that the National Rail boss gets, so it’s a lot of money sloshing around the railways, and we don’t want to see our jobs attacked, our pensions attacked, or our wages under-valued, while all this is going on.”

RMT still hasn’t seen satisfactory negotiations with the right people, Craig continued: “It’s become apparent over the last few weeks that the people we’re negotiating with are not the people that make the decisions.”

These are railway companies like Avanti and Northern, he said.

He added: “It’s clear Grant Shapps and the Department for Transport are making the decisions.

“We called for talks with him, but he refused.”

Strikes will continue until that happens, he said.

'In the interests of the travelling public'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a meeting of the Cabinet that reforms are 'vital' for the rail industry and passengers.

He said: "I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course.

"To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country."

'Stress levels are medium'

At Carlisle station, travel plans were thrown into uncertainty.

Husbands Norm Walker and Wes Cole were waiting for their train to London outside the then-closed station at around 9am.

They travelled here from their home in Canada, to walk Hadrian's Wall, and needed to get back home.

Norm said: "We're going to London, then to Heathrow, to get our plane to Halifax in Nova Scotia, then to BC."

They were set to board their train within an hour of speaking, but the station was shut, and they were anxious that they wouldn't get on.

He added: "The inconvenience is getting on the train but when we're in London we need to figure out how to get to Heathrow.

"Stress levels are medium.”

READ MORE: LIVE: Rail workers begin strike action across the network

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting