Train Drivers' Union Hits Back At 'Bizarre' Claims They Are 'Targeting' Eurovision

Union boss Mick Whelan and the UK's Eurovision entry Mae Muller
Union boss Mick Whelan and the UK's Eurovision entry Mae Muller

Union boss Mick Whelan and the UK's Eurovision entry Mae Muller

A furious union boss has hit back at “bizarre” claims they are targeting the Eurovision Song Contest with strike action.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, described accusations by transport secretary Mark Harper as “ridiculous”.

Harper claimed during an interview that rail unions called strikes “specifically targeting” Eurovision taking place in Liverpool on May 13.

Aslef members will walk out on May 12 as part of a long-running dispute over pay, as well as on May 31 and June 3, the day of the FA Cup final.

Members of the RMT transport union are also due to strike on May 13 after they rejected the latest pay deal from train operators.

“I take my hat off to Mr Harper,” Whelan fumed. “Because of all the accusations I have ever heard, and I have heard a good few in my time, this really is the most ridiculous.

“He claims we are not standing in solidarity with Ukraine when he knows – or should know – that we have stood in solidarity with the people of that country much longer than he has.

“We were visiting workers in that country when Mr Harper and his pals in the Tory Party were still pocketing hundreds of thousands of pounds from Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin.

“I have been to Ukraine – I was there as the Russian tanks invaded – and Aslef’s assistant general secretary, Simon Weller, has been there to talk to rail workers when the Russian bombs were falling. Mr Harper hasn’t – and we are members of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Mr Harper isn’t.

“So I am not going to take any lessons in solidarity from a Tory Cabinet minister who doesn’t understand what he is talking about.”

Harper claimed unions are “cynically targeting” the song contest and suggested they should stand in solidarity with Ukrainians instead.

“I think it’s very damaging that the rail unions are calling strikes specifically targeting the Eurovision Song Contest,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

“I’ve met with the head of Ukrainian Railways and Ukrainian Railways have been specifically targeted by Vladimir Putin, rail workers have been killed in their hundreds and I would have thought frankly rail workers would have wanted to stand in solidarity with them rather than targeting the Eurovision Song Contest which, if you remember, is not our song contest.

“We’re hosting it but we’re hosting it for Ukraine and I think cynically targeting events that hard-working, working men and women across the country are spending their money on to try and attend and targeting those I think is very cynical.”