Pendle MP and Transport Minister Andrew Stephenson says rail strikes would 'hit hardworking families in the pocket'

Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson, the Minister of State for Transport, has said today’s rail strikes would “hit hardworking families in the pocket”.

Mr Stephenson, who has served as a Minister of State with responsibility for HS2 at the Department of Transport since February 2020, told the Burnley Express that he thought strikes should be “the last resort”.

Only 20% of trains are running today after staff walked off the job at midnight over an ongoing pay and working changes dispute with the Government as members of the RMT union are taking action over pay and redundancies - with two more strikes are planned for Thursday and Saturday.

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Mr Stephenson said: “By pressing ahead with today’s rail strikes, the unions have chosen to hit hardworking families in the pocket at the worst possible time.

Pendle MP and Minister of State for Transport Andrew Stephenson has been speaking about today's rail strikes

"Our nurses, teachers, council workers and all those unable to work from home now find themselves having to pay for an alternative way to work. Not only that, but today’s industrial action, backed by the Labour frontbench, also impacts those relying on a train to get to hospital appointments, take their GCSE and A-Level exams, or care for a loved one.

"Strikes should be the last resort not the first and I'd urge the unions to get back round the negotiating table, rather than spreading false information to the public and their members.”

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Network Rail has said it will start formal consultation on changes to working practices in its maintenance team next month.

These include using technology instead of people to do some safety inspections.

Such reforms would mean cutting 1,800 jobs - but Network Rail insists much of this could be achieved by voluntary redundancy and redeployment.

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The RMT union has rejected pay offers from Network Rail and the Rail Delivery Group of 2% plus an additional 1% if reforms are accepted.

Network Rail has said it could increase the pay offer if the union agrees to the proposed changes, which it believes would enable savings, and subsequently a higher pay offer.

RMT leader Mick Lynch said: “Working people deserve a pay rise. The British working classes should not have to beg to address the cost-of-living crisis that faces us.”