SEFTON Central MP and Shadow Minster for Business and Industry Bill Esterson MP on Monday, June 20 asked the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP why he hasn’t taken appropriate action to avoid the rail strikes that have affected thousands of workers, businesses and rail passengers up and down the country.
Before the first day of the strike Mr Esterson asked: “My constituents won’t be able to use Merseyrail tomorrow not because there is a strike on, there isn’t because Labour run Liverpool City Region, have met the rail unions and avoided strikes at Merseyrail.
“But there still won’t be any trains in Merseyside because this Conservative Transport Secretary is responsible for Network Rail, where there is a strike, where he has refused to meet the unions for months. Labour has found a way to resolve potential disputes in Wales and in Merseyside. So, what is it about this Transport Secretary that prevents him from finding solutions and stopping these strikes?”
In response to Mr Esterson’s question Mr Shapps said: “He might want to reflect the same question to the Mayor of London I suppose but for the same reasons. Look I’m delighted that Merseyrail have been able to do their thing, I do hope that he will now join with me, will he join with me in condemning the strikes now? Because I think it actually would have real weight from the Labour and unions party, but they won’t do it, they won’t condemn these strikes.”
Mr Esterson went on to say: “At a time when we have an unprecedented cost of living crisis, the last thing that working families and business need right now is this strike which is causing a great deal of inconvenience to everyone, but the buck ultimately stops with Mr Shapps who has shrugged off all responsibility and is laying blame with the unions. He has refused to even meet the unions.
“This strike benefits no one other than the Conservative government who are fanning the flames of division to suit their own agenda and is in no way in the interests of the British people who are greatly affected by this.
“Mr Shapps and Boris Johnson could have avoided these strikes if they had wanted to do so. The fact that the strikes have gone ahead is a damning indictment of this Conservative government who don’t care about key rail workers, including low paid cleaners and station staff, who looked after us without a pay rise throughout the Covid pandemic. It also shows that the British Conservative government doesn’t care about the travelling public either.”
Mick Lynch, general secretary of RMT said: “Staff were faced with thousands of job cuts, reduced pensions, worse terms and conditions, and a cut in real terms pay as inflation soars.”