Mick Lynch accuses UK Government of prolonging rail strikes ‘for political reasons’
The leader of the biggest rail workers union has accused the UK Government of prolonging the national dispute which led to fresh travel misery for passengers on Saturday.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said thousands of its members were solidly supporting the walkout, which disrupted services, with some areas having no trains all day.
The dispute over pay, jobs and conditions remains deadlocked after more than a year of industrial action.
An overtime ban by the drivers’ union Aslef was also hitting services on Saturday.
The RMT mounted picket lines outside railway stations across England and said they were receiving support from the public.
The union published a report claiming that two-thirds of profits made by train operators are “locked away” in shareholder dividends.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Train companies invest little or nothing in our railways and make completely unjustifiable profits which they squirrel away in shareholder dividends and bosses pay packets.
“It is a scandal that the travelling public is being ripped off by greedy rail privateers while at the same time the Government oversees a corrupt system and prolongs a rail dispute for political reasons.
“It is high time this profits bonanza gravy train was halted, a deal done with the RMT and the railways returned to public ownership for the good of the country and railway workers.”
The Rail Delivery Group said how the railway is funded has changed: “The franchise model no longer exists, and train operators are paid on a small performance-related fixed-fee basis.
“They make a profit margin, typically 0.5% – just like all other Government suppliers. Even if that fee were removed in its entirety, it wouldn’t come close to funding the pay rise set out, which would cost almost double the profit margin for one year alone.
“Even before the pandemic, under franchising, operators retained just 2p of every pound raised through ticket sales.
The RDG said in its statement that since the first RMT strike in June 2022, industrial action had cost the sector around £620 million.
“This has stalled its post-pandemic recovery and threatens its long-term sustainability, pushing the industry in to a spiral decline and risking consequences like cuts to services to make up the shortfall. Revenue levels are still 30% below pre-pandemic levels.
“The strikes have hit the wider economy – particularly sectors still recovering from the impact of the pandemic which employ hundreds of thousands of people.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The Government has met the rail unions, listened to them and facilitated improved offers on pay and reform. The union leaders should put these fair and reasonable offers to their members so this dispute can be resolved.”
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