Don’t be Putin friends Tory MP slams RMT as Russia enjoying self-inflicted distraction

Rail strikes are a 'self-inflicted distraction' says Tobias Ellwood

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Following Tuesday’s chaotic travel disruption, Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has called on RMT strikers to stop acting as “Putin’s friends” and return to the negotiating table to strike a deal with employers and put the pay rise issue to bed. The RMT union, which started protests on Tuesday over the below-inflation pay increase and poor working conditions, are holding fresh talks with rail bosses on Wednesday in a bid to break the deadlock. While the employers have tabled a 2-per ent pay rise, the union have demanded at least a 7-percent increase. As a sign of more strikes to come, RMT Secretary-General Mick Lynch said: “Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.”

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood slammed RMT, saying the strike is a distraction from Putin’s war in Ukraine.

Speaking to Sky News, he lashed out: “I think Russia must be enjoying this self-inflicted distraction, pleased to see that the one government that is actually standing up to Putin is completely distracted in this way.

“I do hope the unions now call off future plans to strike and have a new deal on the table.

“This isn’t just obstructing commuters, including key workers but also students as well and indeed the hospitality sector as well in Bournemouth.

“Nationally, I think will lose around one billion pounds this weekend. It’s also, I’m going to say, Armed Forces Weekend this Saturday. And that’s when we say thank you to those who served and have served.

“I say to the unions: please don’t be Putin’s friends. You know, return to the talks today, so we can get the country moving again.”

The RMT union leaders will resume talks with Network Rail and the train operating companies Wednesday, but it remains unclear whether they will be able to strike a deal.

Commenting on Tuesday’s strike, RMT boss Mick Lynch beamed at the “fantastic” turnout at the picket lines, which “exceeded expectations.”

“Today’s turnout at picket lines has been fantastic and exceeded expectations in our struggle for job security, defending conditions and a decent pay rise.

“Our members will continue the campaign and have shown outstanding unity in pursuit of a settlement to this dispute.”

Mr Lynch added: “RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and government policy.

“Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.”

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Though the Department of Transport acknowledged reforms were “desperately needed” to “modernise the railway and put it on a sustainable footing for passengers and taxpayers, they also said the unions’ strikes “aren’t having the overall impact they might have hoped”, as many people worked from home instead of commuting.

In response to the RMT union’s demand, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said any pay rise will not be close to the 7 percent figure and dismissed the Government’s intervention in rail strike negotiations as a “stunt.”

Even if an agreement is reached on Wednesday, the BBC reports, the strike will still go ahead as planned on Thursday.

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