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Labour and Tories ‘in competition to be most invisible’ in rail dispute says Plaid leader Price

21 Jun 2022 4 minute read
Adam Price and Luke Fletcher MS visiting a picket line.

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?”

‘Different context’

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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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
2 years ago

Its because the Tories and Labour are scared of upsetting the newspapers… If Labour won’t stand up for those whose labour keeps us all going, who are they for?

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
2 years ago

There is no dispute between our TfW and its unions.

The problem, as Adam Price has said, is that Network Rail infrastructure is still run by the discredited UK government who are basically failures.

We should take full control of our country, its economy and infrastructure and remove the UK and its government from our Wales.

The only union membership for us in Wales is that of the European Union – our largest trading block.

Are you up to standing up for Wales, Mr Drakeford ?

2 years ago

Not sure about EU. Lots of our industry went to eastern Europe with EU aid. Perhaps we should consider BRICS now . Whatever, surely do it ourselves must be better than this.

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
2 years ago

I have just read that almost ALL of our Rail networks are owned by European Countries? How does that work? How can we be ‘out’ of EU but still have huge swaths of our Infrastructure owned by European Countries? It makes no sense.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
2 years ago

It is called ‘Free Market Economics’. The UK Government sets up a system that does away with the operation of national strategic public utility by a lean public sector organisation and sets up instead myriad ‘franchises’ that can be sold to the highest bidder with no questions asked about where they come from or what their intentions are. This encourages the ‘winners’ to milk the system (or perhaps one should say ‘bleed’) and the passengers. All that enormous cash flow can then go to private individual’s pockets (Eg. Richard Branson) or to subsidize the bidding country’s own railways (e.g. Deutche… Read more »

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