Rail strikes: Grant Shapps says industry is ‘not badly paid’
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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps condemned the RMT’s decision to pursue train strikes next week, calling it a “big mistake”. Strikes are set to take place on almost all major lines across Britain on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, as well as on the London Underground on Tuesday. In an interview on Sky News this morning, Mr Shapps furiously shamed the strike decision, as he pointed out that the railways are “not a badly paid industry”.
The RMT – which has 40,000 members across the rail network – has said its members are unhappy about stagnated pay and proposed job losses.
The union boss Mick Lynch said any proposed rise in wages must reflect the higher cost of living.
Responding to this, Mr Shapps says the RMT has been “gunning for this strike” since April and they are “completely unnecessary”.
He complained that the unions were more interested in attending TUC rallies than negotiating over the strikes.
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Mr Shapps said: “It is going to inconvenience millions of people – from students doing their A-levels and GCSEs to people trying to get to hospitals, perhaps to operations postponed during the coronavirus.
“It is disastrous. It is no way to behave on the railways. There is no advantage to this.
“The railway has had £16 billion – that’s £600 per household in this country – in emergency funding to keep it going during the coronavirus.
“That made sure no employee on the railway was furloughed or lost their job.
“The taxpayer has done their part. A train driver’s median salary is on average £59,000, a nurse is £31,0000.”
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Sky News host Sophy Ridge noted: “You are picking just the train drivers when there are much more people in the industry with much lower salaries.”
Mr Shapps responded: “Look, this is not a badly paid industry. The average median salary in the industry is £44,000.”
He warned the UK is “now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country”.
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The Transport Secretary added: “By carrying out this action the RMT is punishing millions of innocent people, instead of calmly discussing the sensible and necessary reforms we need to make in order to protect our rail network.”
Talks have so far failed to resolve the row over pay, jobs, and conditions with next week’s strikes set to be the biggest in decades.
Mr Lynch piled the blame on the Government, telling the BBC: “It’s Shapps, Johnson, and Rishi Sunak who are stopping a deal being done in this dispute.”
On Saturday, thousands of people marched in central London in an event organised by the Trades Union Congress to demand action on the cost of living crisis.
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