A union leader has accused Grant Shapps of lying as the clash between rail workers and the Govermnet continues.
Millions across the country will experience travel disruption on Saturday as train drivers stage a 24-hour walkout with Mr Shapps accusing unions of “taking the taxpayer for a ride”.
Following Mr Shapps’ attack, Aslef union chief, Mick Whelan told Times Radio: “I say Mr Shapps is lying, quite simply, quite clearly. We’re not dragging our feet in negotiations, we negotiate with 14 private companies, we do not work for the government or the DfT.”
The Aslef union, which represents trains drivers across seven operators, is staging a walk out over pay demands, which will affect the London Overground, LNER trains, Southeastern, Great Western, Greater Anglia, Hull Trains and all Heathrow Express trains.
Passengers have also been warned that Southern and Thameslink services will experience increased use and could be disrupted. Passengers hoping to travel to the southwest, southeast and Midlands from London, have all been advised to expect some travel disruption.
Head of Aslef explains strike action
09:36 , Bill Mcloughlin
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the union has explained why members are striking today.
He says: “We don’t want to inconvenience passengers, our friends and families use public transport, too, and we don’t want to lose money by going on strike but we’ve been forced into this position by the companies, who say they have been driven to this by the Tory government.
“Many of our members, who were the men and women who moved key workers and goods around the country during the pandemic, have not had a pay rise since 2019.
“With inflation running at north of 10% that means those drivers have had a real terms pay cut over the last three years.
“We want an increase in line with the cost of living, we want to be able to buy, in 2022, what we could buy in 2021.
“It’s not unreasonable to ask your employer to make sure you’re not worse off for three years in a row.”
Unions are taking ‘taxpayer for a ride’, says Grant Shapps
09:56 , Bill Mcloughlin
Writing in The Times, the Transport Secretary said: “The ‘Two Micks’, Lynch of the RMT and Whelan of Aslef, are taking the taxpayer for a ride, but not in the way they are meant to.
“RMT is stalling on reform and Aslef is dragging its feet in negotiations while both call more strikes. Enough.”
Mick Whelan at the picket line
10:07 , Bill Mcloughlin
— ASLEF (@ASLEFunion) July 30, 2022
Former Labour shadow cabinet member joins picket line again
10:29 , Bill Mcloughlin
Former transport minister, Sam Tarry has joined members of the Aslef unuion at Paddington station.
Mr Tarry was sacked after joining union members during the week and was joined by London Assembly transport lead Elly Baker at the usually busy station today.
Proud to join my brothers and sisters in @ASLEFunion and @MickWhelanASLEF on the picket line at Paddington station earlier this morning.
There is power in a Union. Solidarity ✊🏻 pic.twitter.com/xa7gqSxVep
— Sam Tarry MP (@SamTarry) July 30, 2022
Rail Delivery Group disappointed by strike action
10:52 , Bill Mcloughlin
Steve Montgomery, chairman of the Rail Delivery Group, said: "We're really disappointed that the Aslef leadership has decided to impose yet more uncertainty and disruption for passengers and businesses in a week which has already seen a strike by the RMT.
"Millions of passengers will have their weekend plans disrupted, particularly those who are working, or going to the Commonwealth Games or the first football match of the season.
"While we will do all that we can to minimise disruption, if you are going to travel on the routes affected, please plan ahead and check the latest travel advice.
"If you're not able to travel, you can use your ticket either the day before or up to and including August 2, otherwise you will be able to change your ticket or claim a refund.
"Like any service or business, we must move with the times and cannot continue to ask taxpayers or passengers for more money when we should instead respond to the huge changes in travel behaviour post Covid.
"By making these necessary reforms such ending the reliance on volunteer working at weekend, we improve punctuality, have more resilient Sunday services and use those savings to give our people a pay rise which has always been what we want to do."
Richard Burgeon joins Leeds picket line
11:13 , Bill Mcloughlin
— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) July 30, 2022
Workers ‘have had enough’ says former former Labour frontbencher Sam Tarry
11:39 , Bill Mcloughlin
The former shadow transport minister, said it was “really important” for Labour MPs to show their solidarity with striking workers.
Speaking on the Aslef picket line outside Paddington station, he said that workers “have had enough” and people were “prepared to fight back”.
He told the PA news agency: “For me to be here is about showing that the Labour Party and a massive majority of Labour Party members and MPs do support the striking workers.”
He said he had spoken to several MPs across the country who were backing the workers.
He added that Labour clearly needed a “more comprehensive” economic policy offer to explain to workers how they could work towards them getting a decent pay rise.
Mr Tarry ruled out any potential Labour leadership bid and said he was “focused on being the MP for Ilford South” and “doing the best job” he possibly could for the people of Ilford South.
Pictures from today’s rail strike
12:12 , Bill Mcloughlin
More Labour MPs join picket line
12:45 , Bill Mcloughlin
— ASLEF (@ASLEFunion) July 30, 2022
Department for Transport says it’s ‘misleading to suggest’ Grant Shapps should be involved in negotiations
13:55 , Sami Quadri
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “It’s extremely misleading to suggest the Transport Secretary should get involved in these negotiations. His role is to protect the public purse, ensuring value for money for the hard-working people of this country.
“As such, he’s required to set the limits of taxpayer support and ultimately sign off on any deal, not to be involved in negotiating one, and his contracts with operators allow him to do precisely that.
“The union knows full well that negotiations over pay and working practices don’t happen with the Government, they happen with the employers of the people they represent.
“We once again urge union representatives to get back round the negotiating table.”