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TRADE UNIONISTS blasted Chris Grayling for talking “nonsense” today, after an independent analysis said his attempts to blame them for disruption on Southern Rail was baseless.
The Transport Secretary has repeatedly claimed that the “prime cause” of disruption on Southern is “the action of trade unions.”
As well as official strikes, Mr Grayling blamed “unofficial action” including high levels of staff sickness among Southern rail staff.
But an analysis of his claims by Channel 4 News concluded there was “no statistical evidence that unions caused the majority of disruption overall.”
The broadcaster said Mr Grayling was also “unable to provide any figures to prove it one way or the other” when it contacted him about his claim.
In fact, the National Audit Office found that only 38 per cent of 146,000 cancelled or significantly late trains were caused by “train crew” incidents.
This includes strikes and shortages of guards and drivers — often caused by sickness, or by workers declining to take on overtime.
A spokesman for rail union RMT said: “It’s nonsense.
“In over 20 months there have been 39 strike days — less that two a month on average. The performance on non-strike days has been equally dire.
“The pretence that it’s all down to staff is rubbish.”
Southern and its parent company Govia Thameslink Railway have been plagued with problems since the franchise was awarded in 2014.
The company has admitted it doesn’t recruit enough staff. Bosses have repeatedly apologised to passengers for disruption which has made the company Britain’s worst performing railway.
Mr Grayling justified his claims on the basis that a government-commissioned report from former rail executive Chris Gibb had also blamed unions.
Mr Gibb claimed without evidence that unionised rail workers were “the primary cause for the system integrity to fail” and suggested personal sickness levels amounted to wildcat union action.
Referencing Mr Gibb’s boasts of running a “non-union” catering firm and “winning” against strikes when a Virgin rail boss, Channel 4 concluded that Mr Gibb’s assertion was “personal judgement.”
The RMT spokesman added: “If we were taking unofficial industrial action through sickies, as suggested, the company would have sued us wholesale.
“They never did, because it was a lie.”
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