Rail strike: University professor defends RMT walkout
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As education unions have suggested strike action to address issues of pay and working conditions, teaching staff have come out in support of the rail workers striking across June. Transport unions have demanded rail employers act to address the rate of employee pay in relation to inflation levels and resolve matters of workplace safety and job security. As the UK’s transport network descends into chaos, teaching staff have defended the actions of rail staff as the walkout has been described as a desperate measure to address the effects of the cost of living crisis.
Unions representing teachers and health workers have suggested they could ballot their members for proposed strike action to address similar industry concerns as a series of walkouts threatens to launch a summer of discontent across the nation.
Leeds University Professor Kate Hardy defended the strike action organised by rail unions as she explained the demands did not amount to a “pay rise” as the increase would serve to bring pay in line with inflation increases to the UK economy.
Sky News Reporter Kay Burley asked: “Do you support the rail strike?”
Dr Hardy replied: “Yes, I do. I think these are workers who are just asking to not have their pay cut.
“People keep talking about it as a pay rise but in order to keep in track with inflation, it needs to be at least 9 percent or 11 percent.
“So, that’s not a pay rise, that’s just staying on top of their living standards.”
The Government has suggested the inflationary pay rises would create further peril for the UK economy as Conservative Ministers battle to stabilise the cost of living crisis.
Dr Hardy, who is an Associate Professor in Work and employment relations, added: “No, I don’t agree with that at all, there’s plenty of money in the economy.
“For example, the train that I get, the TransPennine Express, the company that owns it paid out £500 million to shareholders last year, so there’s money there.
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“Chief executives are paid a lot of money, the energy companies, there’s a lot of money.”
She added; “It’s not fair that these workers who got us through covid, kept working, put their lives on the line, were put in danger, now are forced to choose between eating or heating.”
Further strikes from other core industries, including education and health, have threatened to create further disarray across the nation, described as a potential ‘summer of discontent’ for the UK.
Dr Hardy added: “Yes, I think it’s quite likely unless the Government steps in and takes responsibility and actually ensures that people are able to eat.
“Food banks have been expanding, this is not just a cut to people’s living standards now.
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“Teachers, nurses, and rail workers have all seen their pay decline, not just in the cost of living crisis, but over the last 12 years.
“This is really the end of the line, people can’t take anymore.”
The rail unions leading the staff walkout have expressed a welcome attitude towards additional strikes for workers who wish to negotiate a similar improvement to pay and working conditions in their own sectors.
Mick Lynch, General Secretary for the RMT union said: “What I would say to trade union leaders and trade union activists is we need to coordinate and synchronise our campaigning so that we can rebalance the inequalities in our society.
“I think I’m knocking at an open door on that because the trade union leaders across the TUC and across Britain are telling me that they want to join this campaign.”
The Trade Union Congress has condemned Government efforts to coordinate with unions and address the concerns of workers across the UK as inflationary pressures continue to rise.
TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “This Government is desperate to distract from its numerous failings by picking a fight with unions.”
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