'Disruptive and Self-Defeating': War Of Words Erupts As Rail Strikes Go Ahead

Thousands of staff will walk out from tomorrow after last-ditch talks collapsed.
Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union confirms the strikes will go ahead.
Mick Lynch, General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union confirms the strikes will go ahead.
Yui Mok via PA Wire/PA Images

Number 10 has condemned the “disruptive and self-defeating” strikes set to bring the UK’s rail network to its knees from tomorrow.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson hit out just minutes after Mick Lynch, head of the RMT union, confirmed the walkout will go ahead after last-ditch talks with employers collapsed.

Further strikes are planned on Thursday and Saturday in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions - and the union boss said the industrial action could end up lasting for months.

Lynch, who said the union had rejected pay offers from both the train operators and Network Rail, blamed ministers for the dispute.

He said: “It is clear that the Tory government, after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.

“The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.

“At the behest of the government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies.”

He added: “Our campaign will run as long as it needs to run until we get a settlement acceptable to our people.

“Whenever we get an offer that is tenable we will put that to our members in a referendum.”

Asked if the strikes could last for months if a deal is not reached Mr Lynch replied: “I think it will, yes.”

But the PMs spokesman said: “It is deeply disappointing that these disruptive, self-defeating strikes will take place this week.

“Striking does nothing to address the long-standing issues that we need to sort to make sure our railway, that the public use and treasure, is fit for the long term.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps earlier denied that he is “the problem” in relation to rail strikes.

He told Sky News: “The actual unions need to sit down with the employers because this is a highly technical discussion around 20 different areas of modernisation that are required on the railway, to make sure the railways can continue to function.

“We’ve given £16 billion of taxpayers’ money through coronavirus to make sure that none of those railway employees lost their jobs.

“So they need to work on this together between the union and the employers.”