Tide is turning against striking unions, says transport secretary

Mark Harper urged the RMT union to look at the pay offer again

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The tide is turning against striking trade unions, transport secretary Mark Harper claimed today.

And when asked if the RMT’s Mick Lynch was making a fool of him, he told GB News: “No, not at all. We’ve been very clear, when I took this job, I was very clear, I wanted to do my part in trying to make sure we could get a fair and reasonable offer that's been put forward and that's exactly what's happened.

“Rail employees have had a fair and reasonable offer, which I think your viewers will look at and think is very reasonable. One of the unions accepted that offer so Unite workers have accepted it, the TSA have recommended acceptance and we'll get their ballot results later this week.

“But the RMT have refused to do so. And I would call on them to look again at this offer and accept it.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper
Transport Secretary Mark Harper

In an interview with Isabel Webster and Martin Daubney, he added: “It's interesting in their ballot yesterday, only just over half of their workforce actually rejected it. Almost 40% of their workforce, even with a very clear instruction from their union leadership, actually voted in favour.

“I think the tide is turning.”

Mr Harper added: “I don't know what the union's motivations are but all I can say is they've had a reasonable offer, I think most people would consider it was reasonable. We obviously want to make sure we can deliver reform that is also important for getting a sustainable railway.

“The railways had a significant amount of taxpayer support over the last few years, and I think most people will consider they've had a reasonable offer. And I hope very much they accept it.

“The damage is done for this week, the strikes are taking place. And even if they were called off, damage has been inflicted on the hospitality industry, on people wanting to get to work, key workers, and it's completely unnecessary.

“People have had a reasonable deal. I made sure that there was a reasonable deal for the trade unions to consider. Some have accepted it. And I think it's time the RMT reconsidered, went back to the negotiating table and accepted the very fair offer that's on the table.”

Meanwhile, when asked if the health secretary has been unreasonable in negotiations with nursing staff, he said: “The health secretary, yet again, yesterday, met the Royal College of Nursing. He's done that on a number of occasions.

“He listened very carefully to their arguments on a range of issues. But he also made it very clear that there's in the health services an independent Pay Review Body.”

“We've accepted all of the independent Pay Review Body offers,

“We know that families are finding it difficult to cope with energy prices. That's why there's direct help off of people's bills on top of the money that went directly to families. And for those people who are on lower incomes.

“There's further help and extra help for pensioners. So I accept that dealing with energy prices, as a result of Putin's war in Ukraine is very difficult for people but that's why the government's put forward a huge amount of support from the taxpayer to help those who are least well off.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper
Transport Secretary Mark Harper