Train strike: Shadow transport secretary, Sheffield MP Louise Haigh, accuses Government of 'hobbling' talks

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh has accused the Government of “hobbling” talks between unions and rail operators as a national strike looms.

Monday, 20th June 2022, 10:36 am

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Sheffield MP said the Government had not set a negotiating mandate.

“At the moment, without the Government these the negotiations are a sham,” she said.

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Louise Haigh MP

“It’s not possible for them to find a resolution and avoid the dispute without the Government being represented at the talks, setting a mandate for the train operators and providing genuine scope in order to find a resolution.

“Without them there, it’s impossible for them to find a way forward and, therefore, it is inevitable that industrial action will happen.”

Challenged that the Government is not a party in the negotiations, Ms Haigh said: “The Department of Transport is party because they set the negotiating mandate for the train operating companies and they have so far refused to do that, so not only are they boycotting the talks, they’re actually hobbling them and therefore that’s why it is imperative that they step in.”

Sheffield station will be affected by the planned rail strike. Picture: Chris Etchells

When are the strikes planned?

Rail operators around the region have advised customers to avoid travelling on the network between Tuesday June 21 and Sunday June 26.

Labour has also urged the Government to take a direct role in the talks.

What is the government saying?

Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke told the Today programme: “Ultimately, it will only confuse things if we add a third party to these negotiations.

“The train operating companies and Network Rail are working to deliver a sensible programme of reform and a sensible and fair pay deal with the trade unions.”

He added: “The practices that are in place across the network are out with the ark, frankly, and need to be reformed.

“It cannot be the case that we have put in £16 billion during the pandemic as taxpayers, worth £600 per household, and still have a railway system where some of what goes on occurs and where, frankly, fares are higher than they need to be and efficiency is lower than it should be because of the way the trade unions operate.”

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