Tag Archives: rail

Rail strikes suspended for talks on new deal – but is anything new on offer?

Mick Lynch: he wasn’t holding back when he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time. Has anything changed?

Does Mick Lynch have a good reason to suspend rail strikes?

Here’s a quick summary of the story:

Mr Lynch, the RMT union’s general secretary, said

there had been “the promise of an offer” on pay from the rail operating companies.

However, when contacted by the BBC, rail employers and the government said their position had not changed.

If they’re not offering anything new, then there’s no reason to suspend strike action – is there?

The BBC’s report added that the suspension has been announced 11 days before a fresh RMT strike ballot is due to close on November 15.

Mr Lynch previously told the BBC that he expected workers to vote in favour, and warned that there could be strikes for another six months if no agreement is reached.

Will the new talks affect the way the ballot goes? Will they even take place before it finishes, so union members can be sure of the situation when they go to vote? Is the new offer – whatever it is – just an attempt to interfere with the result of the ballot?

Could Mr Lynch have behaved any differently?

This Writer isn’t sure he could have. But I wonder whether the future of rail services is being wagered on a form of negotiation brinkmanship.

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‘Summer of Discontent’: bus drivers join TfL and rail workers in strike on August 19 and 20

Some of us are old enough to remember the ‘Winter of Discontent’ of 1978-9 that led to the toppling of a Labour government and the installation of Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street.

So I’m delighted that the tables are turned and the Tories are getting the same treatment.

Here’s the gist:

London bus drivers have joined the UK’s “summer of discontent” and announced a strike for 19 and 20 August following a dispute over salaries.

The union Unite said more than 1,600 of its members working for bus operator London United will join the walkout after the company’s parent, RATP Dev Transit, offered a 7.8 pay increase over this year and next.

The walkout is expected to create maximum disruption, as it will coincide with both the TfL and national railway strike.

It’s another step in the right direction but will the UK’s Tory government pay attention to anything less than a national strike?

And, the way matters are progressing, how long will it be before that happens?

Source: Bus drivers join ‘summer of discontent’ and announce strike for 19 and 20 August

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UK faces train disruption during second widespread rail strike in a week

The cause of the problem: if Boris Johnson thinks he’ll enjoy decent rail travel after his decisions caused inflation to soar, plunging workers into financial crisis, he’d better think again. The trouble is, his likely successors are unlikely to solve the problem because they are as pig-headed as he is.

Commuters were encouraged to find alternative routes to their destinations on Saturday as around 5,000 train drivers went on strike for higher pay.

Drivers’ union ASLEF called the strike because current franchise agreements between the government and the mostly foreign-owned firms that run UK rail services allow for pay rises of only two per cent – in effect, pay cuts with inflation running at 9.4 per cent, its highest in 40 years.

The strike is said to have cancelled almost all services run by seven of the UK’s 34 train operators, but is unlikely to break a stalemate between ASLEF and industry organisation the Rail Delivery Group, which says operators will give bigger pay rises only if train drivers agreed to changes in working practices that would save money.

According to International Business Times, RDG chair Steve Montgomery said,

“We’re not saying to people ‘work longer hours’, but to be more productive within the hours they currently have.”

How are they supposed to do that? They drive trains that run according to specific schedules, meaning their use of time is determined by their bosses, not them.

IBT also stated:

Soaring inflation … and patchy wage rises have exacerbated labour tensions across sectors including postal services, health, schools, airports and the judiciary.

So brace yourself for strikes in all those sectors as well. ASLEF is planning another one-day strike on August 13.

Source: Britain’s trains disrupted in second widespread rail strike in a week

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Why can’t the rest of the elected Labour Party be like Andy Burnham?

Leadership: Andy Burnham.

Greater ManchesterMayor Andy Burnham is leading where Keir Starmer is not.

Here are two interviews in which the long-ago Labour leadership candidate first makes it clear that he thinks rail workers and British Airways staff taking strike action are right to try to protect their incomes in a cost of living crisis…

Then in this clip from an earlier talk, we see Burnham expanding on why he thinks the Boris Johnson government wants to start fights with working people rather than govern for them, and discussing policy that Labour should try to take forward to a general election, as well as supporting the current strike actions.

There’s more leadership in the less than seven minutes of clips here than we have seen from Keir Starmer in more than two years.

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Grant Shapps DOESN’T have ‘no role’ in rail strike – he’s apparently interfering merrily

Grant Shapps: if he’s forced to resign over this, it won’t be the first time. You can bet he’ll protest his innocence this time, too.

It seems Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been lying to Parliament – after he said he had no role in the rail strike, it has been alleged that he’s the one stopping agreement from being reached.

TUC chief Frances O’Grady said contracts mean the 15 train operators are unable to negotiate pay, conditions and pensions of 40,000 striking RMT workers without Shapps’s approval.

If they did try to reach a deal he could hit them with financial penalties by making them foot the bill for any extra wages costs.

This is based on legal opinion commissioned by the TUC from employment lawyer Michael Ford QC, who studied rail contracts to reveal a secret Dispute Handling Plan that rail operators must honour.

He said:

“These provisions mean train operators do not have freedom to negotiate matters which have given rise to the current dispute.

“It is the SoS, and not the operator, who has overarching direction and control of the strike.”

Of course, lying to Parliament remains a breach of the Ministerial Code that could potentially force an MP to resign.

So Shapps is now facing demands to actually do his job by resolving the rail strike in a way that ensures continued safety for passengers and security for workers – and then to resign from his job on grounds of corruption.

Source: Grant Shapps ‘misled public’ over claim he has no role in train strike – Mirror Online

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US pundit ridicules Kay Burley for trying to incite RMT’s Mick Lynch to promote violence

Better times: Kay Burley of Sky News once interviewed an empty chair while Tory chairman James Cleverly cowered 15ft away, too terrified to face even the kind of cross-examination she gave Mick Lynch.

This is very funny and I’m planning to keep an eye on Jimmy Dore from now on.

Have a gander at his analysis of Kay Burley’s interview with Mick Lynch of the RMT, in which the Sky News host tries to talk the union boss into promoting violence by striking rail workers:

This Writer isn’t totally hostile to Burley; her line of questioning is likely to have come entirely from the news producer talking into her earpiece. That’s the usual way.

But Dore’s ridicule of the whole interview is well-deserved.

And his discussion of the strike is well worth watching.

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Is the government being honest with you about rail strikes?

Rail service: this is a generic image of a train and isn’t meant to represent any of the services that won’t be running.

This is from a BBC report about forthcoming rail strikes by the RMT union:

It is not for the government to intervene to stop rail strikes, the transport secretary has said – despite unions calling for talks.

Grant Shapps said the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) request for a meeting was a “stunt” and claimed it had been “determined to go on strike”.

The union said politicians were failing to prevent three days of industrial action.

Labour claimed ministers wanted the strikes to go ahead to “sow division”.

Strikes will take place on almost all major lines across Britain on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, as well as on the London Underground on Tuesday.

Is it a stunt by the union, though? Or is it one by the government?

Let’s look at what the Conservatives’ Facebook page has to say:

Keir Starmer’s own MPs back the week of rail chaos – with no concerns for the commutes 𝙘𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚𝙡𝙡𝙚𝙙, operations 𝙙𝙚𝙡𝙖𝙮𝙚𝙙 and businesses 𝙞𝙢𝙥𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙚𝙙.

Also:

Labour’s Strikes will prevent doctors, nurses and patients getting to hospital. Instead of backing the NHS, Labour are backing strike chaos.

There’s nothing about the reason for the strikes, you’ll notice.

So let’s find out from somebody who actually uses the train services likely to be affected. This is by Paula Peters, a long-time disability-campaigner friend:

A lady passenger was trying to book a taxi to get to work for next Tuesday first day of rail strike. Taxi told her sorry you’ve got to book on the day.

She was calling the rail workers all sorts so I put her straight on a few things.

I said, you use the rail network a lot right? See you got kids there.

Said the RMT are striking to not only fight for their terms & conditions, asking for increase in pay as they haven’t had one a long time and prices are rising, but they are fighting rail maintenance cuts, cuts to maintenance workers hours, stop the closure of ticket offices, fight against the reduction of services.

What do you mean rail maintenance? She said. I said you see engineering work sometimes don’t you? Replacing track, repairing it. She said yes. I said well the government want to cut rail maintenance jobs and it puts your safety at risk, because if track isn’t maintained there would be a serious rail accident which could lead to serious injury and loss of life.

She thought for a moment. She looked at her kids. Imagine if you your kids your husband were caught up in a rail accident and one of your family were seriously hurt.

That’s what the RMT are fighting back against. To protect your safety and everyone who travels on the rail network.

By this time 30 passengers on the carriage I was in were listening intently.

I said, look, next week may inconvenience you, but think about rail maintenance cuts, cuts to services, lack of ticket offices. Lack of platform staff. That these guys have families to feed and they are struggling too.

There was silence. Then a conductor whose name is Chris walks through the train.

I said excuse me are you RMT. He said he was. I said you on strike Tuesday? He said he was.

I stood up shook his hand. Then shouted out, SOLIDARITY to the RMT!

The carriage erupted into cheers.

You see?

When you actually know a little about matter like this, it can change your perspective completely. Are any of you opposing the rail strikes now?

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Is Department for Transport planning ‘all-out assault on jobs, pay and pensions’?

Two-fingered salute: Boris Johnson’s message of thanks to transport workers who kept groceries, other goods and medical supplies moving during the Covid-19 crisis. His government is apparently planning to attack their jobs, pay and pensions as soon as it can.

The Tory government is planning to reward key transport workers who kept the UK running through the Covid crisis – with a kick in the teeth, it seems.

The Department for Transport is hoping to employ a “union-buster” to take on workers in an “all-out assault on jobs, pay and pensions”, according to the RMT union.

And where the DfT leads, will other government departments follow in a renewed effort to destroy workers’ representation once and for all and begin a new dark age for the people of the UK?

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Employees (RMT) reports that the DfT is recruiting for a Rail Pensions and Workforce Director who will be a member of a new-created team of 15 workers.

An advertisement in The Guardian states that the successful applicant “will shape and define the future of pensions and workforce in the rail sector”, operating in a “politically sensitive environment”.

Welfare Journal quotes RMT general secretary Mick Cash:

RMT has been warning that the Government and the employers would be gearing up for a post-COVID assault on our members across the transport sector and here they are headhunting a dedicated hitman or woman.

It would be a scandal if the essential transport workers who have kept key staff and freight moving throughout the pandemic were rewarded with a kick in the teeth on jobs, pay and pensions.

And why not?

Matt Hancock has already slapped NHS employees in the face with his refusal to reward doctors, nurses and support staff for all their dedication, working to keep thousands of people alive in the face of indifference from their political employers who failed to source appropriate equipment.

So why shouldn’t the government tell the people who transported all the supplies – including, no doubt, the medical gear that we all needed (when it finally turned up) – that their contribution is not appreciated at all and that they will be punished rather than rewarded for it?

What did these people expect from selfish, ignorant, entitled toffs?

And what can you expect in the future? You know the Tories will get around to attacking you as soon as they’re able – don’t you?

Source: Government ‘gearing up for an all-out assault on jobs, pay and pensions’ | Welfare Journal

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Supporters up in arms that HS2 might not be allowed to ruin irreplaceable natural habitats

Saddened: After all David Attenborough’s warnings about damage to the ecosystem on which human beings rely, it seems English people are quite happy to condemn species upon species to extinction in order to shorten their rail journeys by 20 minutes.

The HS2 high-speed rail link between London and the north of England could divide and destroy “huge swathes” of “irreplaceable” natural habitats – but supporters are reportedly devastated that part of it may be scrapped.

So much for our concern for the environment. Nobody cares that any number of rare species could die out, as long as they get to their destination 20 minutes faster.

And after all the warnings from David Attenborough. I wonder how he feels, now he knows he was wasting his breath on the general public.

It may seem trivial but it contributes to the expected destruction of a million animal species, ruining entire ecosystems on which human beings depend, as Sir David says, “for every breath of air we take and every mouthful of food that we eat.”

No, no – you’d rather make your journey 20 minutes shorter.

In fact, it doesn’t matter what members of the general public think.

It seems the Tory government is likely to scale down or even cancel HS2, because politicians like Boris Johnson want to put the money elsewhere.

Johnson’s transport adviser, Andrew Gilligan, is known to be against HS2, and Dominic Cummings, his chief adviser, is also not keen, having described it last year as a “white elephant”.

Johnson has for months been expected to endorse HS2 if it can reduce its costs, after commissioning a review by Douglas Oakervee, which is understood to support the whole line going ahead.

However, the government is dragging its feet over the publication of the Oakervee report and final decision, claiming the document is not finished yet even though it was submitted to the Department for Transport in November.

A DfT source insisted “there is no final report” as Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, “had some questions” about earlier drafts and it was sent back for revisions.

It seems that, if the government does cancel or restrict HS2, it will have made the right choice, at long last – although, as usual, for the wrong reasons.

Source: HS2 supporters fear Boris Johnson plans to scrap part of rail project | UK news | The Guardian

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Rail fares rise by 2.7 per cent – and most of the money will go abroad

This is a Pacer train – a bus frame mounted on train wheels as a “stopgap” measure more than 30 years ago, until Northern Rail could afford to replace them. That has never happened and they remain in use today because Tory privatisation means huge amounts of our money have subsidised foreign nationalised railways rather than being invested in our own.

Are you aware that, Brexit or no, huge amounts of your money are funnelled into European Union countries – because of Tory privatisation of our national assets?

That may seem a strange way to open an article about this year’s 2.7 per cent increase in rail fares – but the point is that the extra money being extorted out of commuters will go abroad, to fund foreign rail services.

And the fact is that trains in the UK are now almost entirely state-owned – by foreign countries.

Yes, by stupidly selling off our railways into private hands, the Tories allowed them to slip into the ownership of foreign national railways.

It is to those firms that the extra money from yearly rail price increases goes.

Alternatively, perhaps you’d prefer to think of it in these terms: the same foreign rail services – owned by EU states – have creamed off seven-eighths of the subsidy that the UK government provides to privatised rail services and are using that money for themselves.

When I reported on this three years ago, that subsidy totalled £3.999 billion from the year services were privatised (1994) until 2017 – meaning foreign-owned rail systems had made £3.5 billion in profit from the UK.

Now, with far more of the network owned and run by foreign countries – and three years later – the amount of profit is likely to be far greater.

And the Conservatives running the UK absolutely love giving that money away.

They love the fact that almost all the money the Treasury has been providing to improve the service has been leeched off in profit for foreign rail services instead.

They love the fact that rail fares have shot up by nearly half since 2010, squeezing commuters’ pay packets – which are already worth less than they were in 2008 due to Tory austerity.

They have to love it – otherwise they have to admit that privatisation is a crushing failure that harms UK citizens rather than empowering them.

By contrast, rail fares in Germany have just been cut by 10 per cent.

German state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn runs around a quarter of all UK rail operating companies through its firm Arriva UK Trains.

So, if you have travelled by rail over the last few years, your money has helped make it cheaper for Germans to use their trains.

That is the result of UK rail privatisation.

The Tories are responsible for this. Still, at least the Germans know what to do with it, if only in their own country.

Source: Rail fares rise by 2.7%, hitting millions of commuters – BBC News

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