Rayner insists unions NOT to blame for Christmas rail strike misery

Angela Rayner discusses further rail strike action

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Angela Rayner has insisted trade unions are not to blame for Christmas train strike chaos. The Labour deputy leader instead accused the “militant” Government of presiding over a “complete shambles” on the railways.

Ms Rayner claimed trade unions want to resolve the ongoing dispute which threatens to grind the country to a halt over the festive period.

Her comments come after the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) yesterday announced an extra strike at Christmas.

The deputy Labour leader told BBC Breakfast: “These people who are going on strike are going to lose pay, they will lose their pay at a time when they will need it most, they are not doing it at a drop of a hat.

“This is a militant Government that is not dealing with the issues and not resolving this strike action, and it’s frustrating.

“The system is absolutely crumbling without the strikes. Anyone who gets on a train now in the north knows that you’re praying if you’re going to get to where you need to get to. Many businesses are now losing staff because they can’t get to work.

“It’s a complete shambles of the Government’s making and they really need to get off their hands and resolve this.

“When I speak to the trade unions they’re very clear they do not want to go on strike, they want to resolve this dispute, it’s this Government that seems to want to ratchet it up and want to attack workers’ rights and cause this disruption.”

But schools minister Nick Gibb urged the RMT union not to “hold the country to ransom” as they prepare to down tools over Christmas.

He told GB News: “It’s a very disappointing decision by the RMT, they were offered a very good pay deal by the employers, 8 percent over two years, which is in line with the kind of pay deals that are taking place outside the public sector.

“So, I think the unions really should call off this strike. It’s inconveniencing people up and down the country in the run-up to Christmas, I think it’s a very poor way of conducting negotiations.

“We would urge the unions to talk to employers, to keep negotiating and not to hold the country to ransom, particularly in December as we get nearer to Christmas.”

It comes as RMT union members will press ahead with two 48-hour strikes next week and are now set to walk out from 6pm on December 24 until 6am on December 27. However talks aimed at striking a deal will still proceed today.

A new offer was made by Network Rail on Sunday but the union is urging members to reject it.

Strikes affecting 14 train companies will go ahead next week, although talks will be held with the Rail Delivery Group on Tuesday.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said it was unfortunate that the union had been “compelled to take this action due to the continuing intransigence of the employers”.

He said: “We remain available for talks in order to resolve these issues but we will not bow to pressure from the employers and the Government to the detriment of our members.”

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