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More rail disruption expected today as TUC boss calls for urgent meeting with Prime Minister

04 Jan 2023 3 minute read
Train passengers have been warned to expect significant disruption this week as rail workers take further strike action in a dispute over pay. Photo : Kirsty O’Connor/PA Wire

The new general secretary of the Trades Union Congress has called for an urgent meeting with the Prime Minister in a bid to break the deadlocked industrial disputes sweeping across the country.

Services in Wales are set to be hit by further walkouts today following on from weeks of strikes during the festive period in disputes over pay and working conditions.

RMT union members at Network Rail will strike today along with DVSA, the Rural Payments Agency and National Highways customer service workers.

Around half of Britain’s railway lines are closed and only a fifth of services are running as tens of thousands of workers at Network Rail and train operators walk with further industrial action is planned this month.

The majority of rail services across the Wales and Borders network will not run today with more cancellations to come.

TFW unable to operate

Transport for Wales is not involved in the strike but the dispute between the unions and Network Rail means it will be unable to operate rail services on Network Rail infrastructure.

Paul Nowak called for a change in government direction, saying ministers should open pay negotiations with unions.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, Mr Nowak said public services were in crisis after years of “underfunding and understaffing.”

He wrote: “We can’t solve these problems without a fair deal for the people on the frontline.

“Every month experienced employees are quitting, with one in three public service staff now taking steps to leave their professions or actively considering it. This is simply unsustainable.

“Negotiate directly”

“But we cannot fix the staffing crisis in our schools, hospitals and elsewhere if we do not fix the underlying causes.

“That means talking in an open and constructive way about improving public sector pay. But so far your ministers have refused to negotiate directly about pay with unions.”

Mr Nowak said unions worked closely with Mr Sunak during the pandemic to deliver the furlough scheme and protect millions of jobs, adding:

“That’s the kind of mature approach we need now.

“Unions have already made clear their willingness to sit down with the Government and talk about boosting pay. But while your ministers continue to refuse point blank to discuss improving wages, there can be no resolution.

Resolution

“In the NHS, for example, appropriate structures already exist to allow the immediate start of pay negotiations involving health unions, employers and ministers. This was exactly what happened in 2018, leading to the three-year wage deal.

“We want to find a resolution to the current disputes so our public service staff can get on with doing the jobs they love. And so our public services can start to improve for everyone who relies on them.”

The Welsh Government has said it cannot negotiate over pay without the help of Westminster.


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