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Striking rail workers will be guilty of “cultural vandalism” if they stop people getting to Eurovision and major sporting events, Transport Secretary Mark Harper has warned.
RMT members plan to strike on May 13 when the Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Liverpool. Train drivers’ union Aslef is due to strike on June 3 – the day when Manchester United and Manchester City will meet in the FA Cup Final.
Mr Harper warned that striking on the Eurovision date would inflict “misery” on Ukrainians who fled their homes and described the unions’ plans as “indefensible”.
He said: “Like many Sunday Express readers, I was incredibly disappointed at Thursday’s decisions by Aslef, the train drivers’ union, whose members earn an average of £60,000 a year, and the RMT to call yet more disruptive strike action.
“In a cynical act of cultural vandalism, they are targeting significant national events that bring joy to millions, including the first Eurovision in Britain for 25 years, hosted for the people of Ukraine, and the first all-Manchester FA Cup final. Inflicting this misery on the public, and particularly the Ukrainians who have been displaced by Putin’s war, is completely indefensible.”
The Transport Secretary insisted he had tried to bring the unions and employers together.
He said: “I have worked hard, alongside the rail minister, to facilitate constructive conversations between unions and the rest of the industry. We’ve played our part, acted in good faith, and delivered reasonable and fair pay offers.
“So our message to the unions is clear: call off this strike action, put these pay offers to your members and let them have their say. Pursuing this disruptive and unjustified strike action will only drive away the passengers that keep our railways running.”
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, has suggested the Conservative Government wants to “escalate” the dispute with rail operators.
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He claims the Rail Delivery Group has “reneged on their original proposals and torpedoed” the negotiations.
The union says the offer from the RDG included a first-year payment of five percent but was dependent on the union terminating its industrial mandate so that no further strike action could take place.
It says this would leave it without any industrial leverage in the next round of negotiations.
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