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TORY Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was lying today when he said rail unions are “standing in the way of modernisation,” Aslef has said.
The train drivers’ union slammed the Welwyn Hatfield MP for claiming that the sector’s unions are “dinosaurs,” saying: “We are and have been fully engaged with stakeholders in the industry” since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
The government has been stepping up its anti-union rhetoric since RMT members led three days of national strike action across Network Rail and 13 train operating companies last week — the biggest industrial action to hit the railways since the 1980s.
Tory minsters claim the sector needs to cut costs after the pandemic hit passenger numbers, but unions argue that the hugely profitable industry is choosing to impose below-inflation pay rises, despite the increase in passenger traffic this year.
Workers are also demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies as thousands of safety-critical jobs come under threat.
Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: “Grant Shapps is, I’m afraid, badly mistaken.
“Now he either doesn’t know he is wrong, in which case he is inept, or, at least, exceptionally badly briefed, or, if he does know that what he is saying is simply not true, then he is a liar.
“Would Mr Shapps like to clarify the deliberate lies or misinformation?
“Because this trade union has been fully engaged in the projects he is talking about.
“If he would like that to change, fine. If not, then he should do the right thing and publicly apologise.”
Many more strike days are likely to hit the network in the coming weeks unless ministers and bosses budge, rail unions warn, as the “summer of discontent” escalates.
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