During the pandemic, they got up in the middle of the night, cleaned our trains, checked the track, sold us tickets and kept trains running. Our transport heroes who we thanked and clapped.
However, the cost of living crisis, and here in York the cost of housing crisis too, is pushing transport workers who were just about managing into hardship. They simply want to get by.
The tragedy is not the strike, it is the fact that Government are refusing to settle it.
We all hate the disruption, the panic of how we are to get from A to B. I get it. I don’t have a car, so am totally dependent on trains. My five-and-a-half hour journey back from Parliament on Thursday by coach will be a massive inconvenience. Rail workers hate the loss of pay and overtime; they want to work and they want dignity.
Having pleaded with the Chancellor and Transport Secretary to meet, it has become evident that the Tories are fuelling, not cooling this dispute.
I participated in the debate in Parliament last week over the industrial action. I challenged the Transport Secretary’s approach as he stoked this dispute. I offered industrial relations advice, having been a national negotiator, and I offered solutions. It was clear, Government wanted the strike not resolution.
Why? We have a Prime Minister in desperate need of distractions. He is trying to turn his vote of no confidence, partying obsession and lying before Parliament and the country into him now being the invincible leader. He thrives off crises and chaos. He is building for a General Election, when he will state, “he’s the leader our country needs, whilst Labour and their friends in the union are driving the country into chaos.” But nothing could be further from the truth.
Don’t be sucked in. It was the RMT, in trying to resolve this dispute that pushed for talks, to sit at the table and to discuss resolution. It was Ministers who have refused point blank to enter the room, and the Chancellor who has withheld funds.
Workers have a right to demand decent pay and job security. They have families to support and bills to pay. It is our trade unions who are their voice, bringing workers together to fight the elite who squander the nation’s wealth and quash their aspirations. Eighty-nine per cent voted for better in this dispute, a significantly high turnout.
We can be so proud of our transport workers who worked when commuters were furloughed, and let’s not forget, some became seriously ill and some died doing their duty through Covid. In York’s rail city, we know how much all our rail workers mean to our past, present and future and we must stand with them at this difficult time.
That doesn’t mean I don’t understand the challenge for commuters, I really do, and will work with everyone that needs help to find alternative provision.
It was the rail unions who persuaded TUC Congress to set up the Labour Party in 1900, as the voice to challenge the elite so that working people could have decent pay, terms and safety at work. They don’t want to strike, they simply want fairness.
Last week, I asked the Government where the plan was to increase passenger numbers. Unlike other European countries, there was none. With the climate challenge, where was the plan to get people off planes and out of their cars onto trains, there was none. Passenger numbers would rise if they did, revenue would be raised and this dispute would be settled.
My biggest fear is that the Government will dig in and stoke a summer of discontent. Workers across our public services will not get the pay they were promised, and jobs will be cut. Worse than in 2011, because inflation and the cost of living is out of control, thanks to Government incompetence and economic illiteracy; something we all should be shouting about.
Instead of addressing the real challenges working people have, Government will stoke this fight with the unions and cause mass industrial action to divert attention from their collapsing economy and failed leadership.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Prime Minister tried to cut and run for an election.
His thirst to remain in power will stop at nothing, including igniting industrial chaos.
I will stand against this Government and with the working people of our city who are simply asking for respect, fair pay, safety and job security.
I hope you will see the big picture and join me in exposing the antics of this disgraceful Prime Minister.