Labour and Tories ‘in competition to be most invisible’ in rail dispute says Plaid leader Price
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has accused Labour and the Conservatives of being “in a competition to see who can be the most invisible” as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport go on strike.
Around 40,000 members of the union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out in a dispute over pay and the threat of redundancies. Strikes are also planned for Thursday and Saturday.
Unions have reacted with anger yesterday to reports Labour has banned its frontbenchers from picket lines ahead of the mass railway strike set to bring the country’s rail services to a stop.
At today’s First Minister’s Questions, Adam Price asked Mark Drakeford if he supported the strikes. The First Minister said he supported the trade union movement but said that Labour leader Keir Starmer was in a “very different position”.
Adam Price had asked: “When it comes to the devolution of railways, it’s important that we have a clear position on that here in Wales. Plaid Cymru is clear – the infrastructure should be devolved to Wales in the same way that the franchise is. However, the position from the UK Labour party has at best been ambiguous.
“Now in Westminster’s rail crisis there seems to be a competition between politicians to see who can be the most invisible. Is it Grant Shapps refusing to sit down with the rail unions, or is it Keir Starmer banning his Shadow Cabinet from the picket lines and berating them from speaking out in favour?
“While Johnson attacks workers, and Starmer ignores them, Plaid Cymru will always stand side by side with workers defending their pay and job security. I was at a RMT picket line this morning, proud to be there expressing my solidarity. At a time when trade unionists and workers are being demonised, being turned into the scapegoats, being vilified to distract attention from Boris Johnson’s many failures, isn’t it even more important that we show them our support?
“If England is to have its Summer of Discontent, can we contrast that here – within those fields that we control – have a Summer of Solidarity and heed, for example, the call from unions for pay deals that at least keeps pace with inflation?”
The First Minister responded: “Well, Llywydd, no inhibition exists on members of my group demonstrating their support for the trade union movement.
“Keir Starmer is in a very different position. He knows perfectly well that if he were to sanction that, the story would never, ever be, would it, about support for the trade union movement; it would be the Tories succeeding in their wish to portray this as somehow an example of the country returning to days that have been left far behind.
“So, in our context, where we have a partnership approach with our trade unions, where we don’t have a dispute with our trade unions, of course members of the Labour Party here in Wales are able to demonstrate their support for our trade union colleagues, but we operate in a different context and we come to different conclusions for very good reasons.”
Transport for Wales are not in dispute with the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union but operate on railways run by Network Rail, which is.
Mark Drakeford added that there would be no disruption in Wales if it was not for the UK Government.
“The reason why there are no trains south of Radyr is because of decisions being made by non-devolved bodies,” he said.
“The reasons why there are no trains at all in north Wales is for the same reason.
“It is time that the UK Government and Network Rail treated Wales with the respect that we deserve, and recognised that we don’t have a dispute going on here in Wales, and yet, because of their actions, trains that could be running today are not running.”
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