Are you sure? Rail strikes still have public support, says union chief Mick Lynch
The UK public is still supportive of rail strikes and staff walkouts, according to union boss Mick Lynch, as industrial unrest brings the country to a halt yet again.
Lynch told Sky News workers were getting “massive support from people online, in person, on our picket lines.”
Around 40,000 members of the union RMT working for Network Rail and 14 other operators have gone on a 48-hour strike today after rejecting respectively a 9 and 8 per cent pay increase, with the walkout set to be repeated at the back end of the week.
Disruption – set to impact millions of commuters going back to work after the festive period – will be amplified by the train drivers’ walkout on Thursday.
Transport secretary Mark Harper rebutted that the offer is “fair and reasonable” and that the RMT’s decision to strike is “deeply unhelpful.”
“It’s not a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money here,” Harper told the outlet this morning.
“I think you’ve got an offer that’s fair to the people that work in the industry, but it’s also fair to the taxpayer that’s picking up the tab – and that’s the balance that we’re trying to strike.”
RMT boss Mick Lynch however claimed the public were behind striking workers, despite recent polls suggesting otherwise.
An Ipsos Mori survey in December suggested public support had slipped – with more Brits opposing the strikes than backing them.
“[People] want a decent railway that is run in their interests and they don’t want this inaction from the government and profiteering from the private sector railway,” Lynch said.
“So as soon as we can get a settlement and get the public back on the railway and back to work, using leisure facilities to go about their business, the better for us and the better for them.”
According to data from the Office of Rail and Road, government funding amounted to £13.8bn in 2021/2022, compared to the £5.8bn raised through fares.
The union leader has repeatedly accused the government of “blocking” negotiations between unions and operators by not giving train companies a “mandate” to put a decent offer on the table.
The RMT said the latest round of talks – which took place in mid-December – fell through after the Department for Transport (DfT) insisted on having driver-only operated trains as part of the proposal.
The practice has been at the centre of controversies as it would lead to less or no train guards on board.
The accusations have been denied time and again by transport ministers, who have always maintained that the DfT’s job is that of facilitator, not negotiator.
“The government has demonstrated it is being reasonable and stands ready to facilitate a resolution to rail disputes,” said a government spokesperson.
“It’s time the unions came to the table and played their part as well.”