Train strikes: walkouts ‘only course of action for working people’

RMT organiser Daren Ireland, who was on the picket line outside Liverpool Lime Street station, insists that ‘members are rightly angry’ over pay, job and safety disputes.

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Railway workers across the North West are taking part in a huge national strike, in the biggest walk-outs the country has seen in decades.

The industrial action relates to disputes over pay, job security and health and safety.

Members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) voted in favour of strike action across Network Rail and 13 train operating companies.

Speaking outside of Lime Street Station in Liverpool, Daren Ireland, RMT regional organiser for the North West, said: “The unions have been negotiating with some of these employers for nearly two years. Members are rightly angry.”

Merseyrail staff are not directly involved, but the signal operators on the network are employed by Network Rail and will be taking part in the strike action. As a result there will be no regional services on the days of the national strikes.

Last minute talks failed to prevent the walk outs, which will take place on June 21, 23, 25 and will be the largest industrial action on the railways since 1989.

RMT members ‘rightly angry’

Mr Ireland added: "This train dispute is over three issues; it's over pay, it's over job security, and it's over having no detrimental changes to terms and conditions of employment.

“Despite what Grant Shapps says in parliament that we are being premature, we haven't been premature - we've been trying to negotiate resolutions for some period of time.

Daren Ireland, RMT regional organiser for the North WestDaren Ireland, RMT regional organiser for the North West
Daren Ireland, RMT regional organiser for the North West

“Ultimately the train operating companies had a mandate from the Department for Transport and we literally turned up to 16 separate meetings across the country whereby all the train operators said: 'We can't negotiate over pay because we've got no mandate.'

“We tried to resolve the issue through national-level discussions with the chairs of the rail delivery group, but unfortunately, the government interference has precluded any resolution. Members are rightly angry."

Government stance on railways

In a speech on rail reform delivered by the Secretary of State for Transport ahead of the planned strike action, Grant Shapps said: "I want put on record that we want a fair deal that includes increasing pay for rail staff.

“The whole point of these reforms is to build a sustainable, growing railway where every rail worker receives a decent annual pay rise. But right now, pay needs to be in step with the wider public sector."

What do commuters think of the strike?

Speaking to passengers outside Liverpool Lime Street, they seemed wholly in favour of the industrial action.

Paul said: "The sad thing is this is the only course of action for working people."

Peter said: "The strike that is occurring is one of the most important strikes that we've had opposing what I would regard as quite a despicable government."

Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and train operators walked out, with millions of passengers suffering disruption.