Train and Tube strikes: Minister fears biggest rail strike in 30 years will go ahead despite last ditch talks

·3-min read
Train and Tube strikes: Minister fears biggest rail strike in 30 years will go ahead despite last ditch talks

A minister has said he fears this week’s rail and Tube strikes will go ahead and that the public should get ready for widespread disruption - despite last ditch talks between rail companies and union chiefs.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union is due to meet with the rail operating companies and Network Rail later on Monday to try and avert a walk out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday which could cripple national transport networks. Workers on the Tube are also set to strike on Tuesday.

Although Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said the Government would continue to support the talks he said people should prepape for disruption this week. He also said the Government wouldn’t shift its position and directly intervene to try and hammer out a settlement.

“I fear it is likely that they will go ahead,” Mr Clarke told Sky News in response to questions on whether the strikes would happen.

“Clearly we will continue to talk until such time as there's no more time to discuss, but I think the public do need to be aware this week there will be very substantial disruption and people should make preparations now.”

“We want a resolution to this issue and a resolution that works for everybody. We continue to make sure that those talks have the support from Government that they need.

“But ultimately this is a matter between the train operating companies and Network Rail and the trade unions and the government doesn't sit directly as a part of those talks for a very good reason.

“We don't intervene in the specific process between an employer and the union representing employees but we are there to provide the support and the enabling framework.

“Ultimately, we don't we don't control all the levers that need to be held here.

“We recognise these strikes are a huge inconvenience for millions of people - I absolutely don’t want them to go ahead but it isn’t the case we can put ourselves into the hot seat.”

His comments came after Business Minister Paul Scully said rail workers get paid “more than most other sectors’” as he urged union chiefs to “intensify” talks rather than strike action.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union is threatening months of walk-outs in a row over pay, job cuts and work conditions, with the first of three this week starting on Tuesday.

But business minister Mr Scully told BBC Radio’s Westminster Hour that RMT boss Mick Lynch should instead be ‘intensifying negotiations with employers to see how much closer they can get to a negotiated settlement.’

Mr Scully said he could “understand the demand and expectation and hope for pay rises because clearly people up and down the country in other sectors as well are being affected by the rise in the cost of living and the rise of inflation.”

He added: “The fact is that rail workers get paid more than most other sectors, so I would say, let’s not talk about extending this strike for political reasons, for whatever reasons, get round the table because that’s what’s going to protect rail workers.”

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