February 3, 2023

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Downing Street condemns proposed rail strikes as ‘act of self-harm’

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Downing Street has condemned this month’s proposed rail strikes across the UK as “selfish”, “an act of self-harm” and “thoroughly irresponsible”, as negotiations continue to try to avert the worst disruption on the network for a third of a century.

The RMT union announced on Tuesday that 40,000 members at 13 train operating companies and infrastructure owner Network Rail would take industrial action on June 21, 23 and 25. The union is protesting against low pay and proposed job cuts.

The union also announced a strike on the London Underground on June 21.

Number 10 said the government would not be deterred from its plans to make the railways more efficient, adding that the union’s plans would cause “pain and economic disruption on their fellow citizens in really tough times”. A spokesperson said the network had lost a quarter of its passengers since the Covid pandemic and warned that the strikes would drive away more customers and “kill services and jobs”.

Huw Merriman, Tory chair of the House of Commons transport select committee, said ministers should push ahead with a 2019 manifesto commitment to bring in a legal obligation for a minimum service during railway strikes, as is in place in some European countries.

“That legislation has not been put in place, without that it will be difficult just to negotiate with the union if the trains grind to a halt, which it looks as if they will,” he told the BBC.

The government effectively nationalised the industry during the pandemic to prevent catastrophic losses. Since then, a shift towards more people working from home has meant a lingering reduction in passenger volumes, and the industry faces a £2bn a year funding gap.

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents the industry, urged the union, Network Rail and the operators to intensify ongoing talks to try to head off the disruption, which could cause chaos for commuters and those attending events including the Glastonbury festival in…

2022-06-08 05:58:27

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