Blackpool hit by first RMT Union train strike of 2023: "They want a staff-less railway with no guards, no ticket offices and reduced services. We can’t accept that"
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Rail workers gathered on the picket line on Talbot Road to ‘fight for jobs and livelihoods’, but said that pay was not the main issue.
Kevin Morrison, RMT Executive for the North West England, told Blackpool Gazette: “We virtually had an offer on the table, and then the Government stepped it up and said they want every guard off the trains. They want to have a staff-less railway with no guards, no ticket offices and reduced services and we can’t accept that. Our main issue is jobs and terms and conditions of employment. Without a job there’s nothing else to fight for.”
While tourism bosses previously feared that the strikes would have a ‘devastating impact’ on trade, Blackpool hotels including Corona and Number One St Lukes have not noticed a significant hit during the first round of strikes on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 as most visitors had come by car.
RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will go on strike for two 48-hour stoppages starting on Tuesday and then Friday this week, while train drivers in the Aslef union will also strike this week, wiping out many services on Thursday.
Passengers have been urged to attempt to travel only if necessary. The strikes will be the culmination of four weeks of industrial action that have severely disrupted rail services over the festive period, including an overtime ban ending later on Tuesday.
Thousands of workers would have lost their jobs and the railway would have become more dangerous if the RMT had accepted the latest offer from companies, Mick Lynch has said.
Speaking from a picket line at Euston station in London, the union leader told the PA news agency: “The one on the train-operating companies we could never accept, because that would mean thousands of our members and guards would lose their jobs, that would mean a less safe railway and it would also have meant we’d have to accept a pay offer that is way below last year’s inflation, and this year’s inflation, 2023.
“We’ve also not had a pay rise in three years, so you’re looking at a three, four, five-year deal that would have been unacceptable to our members and unacceptable to the union, so it wasn’t a tangible offer that we could have gone forward with.”
Rail passengers have been warned to expect significant disruption for the rest of the week, with only about 20% of national rail services expected to run on RMT strike days, mostly during the hours of 7.30am to 6.30pm.
As fresh rail strikes begin, Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, told Times Radio: “There is a very fair pay offer on the table which has been accepted by two of the trade unions on Network Rail.
“The RMT recommended that their members didn’t accept it, but actually a third of their members still voted in favour of it.
“I think it is time that the RMT got off the picket line and round the negotiating table to try and hammer out a deal with the train operating companies and Network Rail.
“It is a fair and reasonable offer on the table and … this is a very difficult week for those that depend on the train to get to work, to carry out important appointments, and for businesses who depend on those commuters.”