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Minister Insists Government Talks With Union Bosses Would Not End Strikes

4 min read

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he would join talks with union leaders if he thought there was “even a one in a million chance” his presence would aid negotiations.

Speaking on Sky News as railways faced a national shutdown on Tuesday morning, Shapps continued to defend the government’s contentious position not to engage directly with the leadership of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT).

“It’s always the employers and the unions who have to come to a settlement in these things,” Shapps said.

“They’re the ones with the technical details, they’re the ones who actually have the mandate to do the settlement as well,” he added.

Today marks the beginning of a week of industrial action being carried out by rail workers who are striking over pay freezes, potential job cuts and workplace safety issues.

Britain’s rail infrastructure ground to halt on Tuesday morning and will do so again on Thursday and Saturday.

Knock-on effects are also expected to impact services throughout the rest of the week.

The government has come under pressure from the Labour party and the leader of RMT, Mick Lynch, for refusing to participate in dispute negotiations.

This morning Shapps defended the stance, claiming if he “even thought there was even a one in a million chance that my being in the room would help sort it out, then I’d be there”.

The Transport Secretary claimed that Network Rail and RMT have met on more than 60 occasions in an effort to reach a settlement.

Yesterday Lynch confirmed no such agreement had been reached and warned further strike action would take place until union members are presented with an “acceptable” offer.

“We will go on strike again if we don’t get a settlement to this issue,” Lynch told Sky News this morning.

“After this phase of action we will review the situation, we will look at where the negotiating position is, we will continue to talk to the companies at every opportunity,” he added.

“If we need to take further industrial action that’s what we’ll do.”

The government has vowed to impose a series of legislative measures aimed at lessening the impact of strikes across the public sector.

On Monday Shapps confirmed the government will bring forward legislation requiring railways to run a minimum number of services, including during periods of industrial action.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the government will also look to repeal legislation banning employers from hiring casual or agency staff to fill positions temporarily vacated by striking workers.

Lynch dismissed the proposed legislation, arguing that “there are no agency workers available to replace our members”.

“This is one of the myths that Grant Shapps is perpetuating because he has problems with reality I think sometimes,” the union boss told Sky News. 

“The only people that are working are managers that have been trained up in a couple of hours to take this forward,” he added.

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