Sunday shows: Government is “on strike and not doing its job”, Nandy says

Sophy Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour in government “would get round the table with the workers that Grant Shapps was calling true heroes” during the pandemic to avert strike action by the RMT next week, and told viewers the government is “on strike and not doing its job”.

  • “I’m not a member of the RMT. What I am is an MP aspiring to form the next government and I can tell you what we would do in government: we would get round the table with the workers that Grant Shapps was calling true heroes only a couple of years ago.”
  • On the reasons for the industrial action due to take place next week: “It’s not just that they’ve had 11 years of pay cuts, it’s also that they’ve got serious safety concerns about what is happening on the railways.”
  • “The reason that you haven’t got strikes in Wales and you have got strikes in England is because in Wales you’ve got a Labour government and in England you’ve got a Tory government – it’s not about whether workers go on strike, it’s about the fact we have got a government that is currently on strike and not doing its job.”
  • On reducing train guards: “I don’t think it’s an efficiency saving to say you want to take a guard off a train. I’m not sure when Grant Shapps last got on a train but the railways are fast becoming no-go areas; people with disabilities, older people, women particularly travelling late at night.”
  • She added: “The government should not be calling it efficiency savings to take skilled, experienced staff off the railways who help to keep us safe… The repeated cuts [Shapps] is trying to make to the railways don’t just harm the people who work on them, they harm the travelling public as well.”
  • Asked whether she has met with Keir Starmer in alleged ‘succession planning‘: “This is absolute nonsense. No he hasn’t and I’ve spoken to him twice in the last couple of days about how we persuade this government to lift a finger to avert a crisis on the railways.”
  • Asked if she is worried he has been talking to Wes Streeting instead: “No, I’m not worried he’s been talking to anybody about succession planning because I know he’s been talking to all of us about how we rid this country of a government that has held us back for 12 years… Our eyes are not on the Labour Party.”

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch told viewers that the RMT does not want the strikes next week to go ahead, said the behaviour of train operating companies is as “ruthless as P&O” and described accusations that the union did not attend negotiations on Saturday as an “entire fabrication”.

  • On the strikes: “We don’t wanna be the cause of disruption in peoples lives. We want a settlement to this dispute. But we’re faced with a crisis for our members. We’re faced with thousands of job cuts – despite what Grant Shapps says… They’re going to cut back on the safety regime, they’ve told us that every single booking office in Britain will close, they’ve told us that they’re gonna extend the working week from 35 hours to 40 or possible 44.”
  • He added: “If that’s the way that the rest of society is going to go – that you have to work more hours for less money – we’ve got a real crisis in this country. Because it means they’re trying to restore profit in a way that makes workers pay for that… through their pay slips and through the amount of time they’ve got to spend in the workplace.”
  • Put to him that the RMT is asking for “special treatment”: “No, we’re not asking for special treatment. We’ve had pay cuts. Most of our members have not had a pay rise for two to three years.”
  • On pay: “It’s not just losing out against the cost of living, they’re actually proposing to cut pay on the railway going forward. That was a proposal put to us by the train operating companies on Thursday, and since that time they’ve not invited us to any meetings whatsoever.”
  • On negotiations: “The train operating companies have mode no offer during these talks. There are two strands of talks – Network Rail has got a strand… and the train operators. The train operators adjourned the meeting on Thursday, they’ve not invited us to any talks whatsoever and they’ve made no offer on pay. What they’ve told us is what they plan to do.”
  • On what the RMT is seeking in talks: “We’re looking for a pay rise that reflects the cost of living… At the time of the Network Rail pay deal, which should have been done in December, it was 7.1%… That’s what the cost of living would have been at the time this deal should have been struck.”
  • Put to him that the railways have been subsidised through Covid: “There was a subsidy, but let’s not forget that during that period these train operating companies, and the rolling stock leasing companies and the sub contractors made £500m profit in the worst year for rail revenue. So what Grant Shapps is actually doing is subsidising private sector profits, dividends and shares.”
  • Asked whether he is “overplaying his hand” and risking a government backlash: “Well if we don’t play our hand, thousands of my members will lose their jobs, railway services will be cut back, the safety regime… will be cut back… We have to fight this.”
  • He added: “It’s just as ruthless as P&O, really, except they haven’t got agency workers to come in.”
  • On accusations the RMT did not show up to talks on Saturday: “This nonsense that we didn’t attend negotiations yesterday, which Grant Shapps has just said on your programme, is an entire fabrication. We left Network Rail on Friday night at around 7.30pm and they said to us ‘we are prepared to meet you on Sunday’. They never said mentioned any negotiations on Saturday.”
  • On Labour’s position: “I don’t know where Labour are. If somebody could tell me where Labour are, I would be very happy to hear it. I think they’re triangulating between what they think is public opinion in the likes of the Daily Mail… But what they’ve got to do, and I want Keir Starmer to be successful and I want him to be our next Prime Minister, is get back in contact with working people.”

Sunday Morning

Shadow Levelling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy said the reason there was not a rail strike scheduled in Wales was because it has a Labour government, while England has a Conservative government that has “not lifted a finger to resolve this”.

  • Asked whether she would vote to strike if she worked on the railways: “I don’t work on the railways. I work in parliament, and my job is to make sure that we actually resolve this.”
  • On talks: “The government has got to get round the table… They’re the only ones who can. They took the negotiating mandate away from train operating companies in the pandemic. They haven’t given it back, and it’s no use saying to people ‘get round the table’ if you’ve taken away the table.”
  • On whether she thinks the strikes are reasonable: “I think it’s unreasonable to pit working people… against one another when the reality is everyone is losing. The problem isn’t threatened strike action on the railways.”
  • On whether Labour is opposed to the strikes: “I am on the side of people who are asking to be listened to and for the government to come to the table and negotiate seriously with them. Those true heroes that Grant Shapps talked about and the people that they serve who use the railways to get to work… they’re not clamouring for strike action. They’re asking for safety and security on the railways. They’re asking not to be replaced with agency staff. They’re asking not to lose their jobs. And they’re asking for a government that takes seriously the request for a pay settlement at a time when inflation is soaring.”
  • On what would be a fair pay rise: “I’m not going to undermine a collective bargaining process. We have these processes for a reason.”
  • Asked whether a ‘boring’ man like Keir Starmer can become Prime Minister: “I don’t think it’s boring to want to abide by the rules you set… I would find it deeply exciting to have a Prime Minister who was prepared to act with honour and integrity and abide by the rules that he himself had made.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on the government to bring forward a fourth Budget and said ministers must focus on tackling inflation, easing family poverty and setting out a plan for growth.

  • On whether inflation could rise further: “It’s going to be high, and Britain’s going to have some of the worst inflation.”
  • On how the government should be responding: “This is, first of all, a global problem that needs a global solution. We’re actually leaderless at the moment, but we’re not powerless. We can do what we did in 2009 and bring people together… Boris Johnson may be going to Rwanda and then Germany, but he really ought to be getting world leaders together, and they should concoct a plan that deals in a concerted and comprehensive way that can get oil prices down, that can get food supply moving around the world and can get control of inflation.”
  • On whether inflation could rise above 11%: “It could be. But I think the most important thing that you’ve got to recognise is that we’ve got both inflation and the prospect of recession and it’s when the two come together that living standards fall.”
  • On the need for a fourth Budget: “The government really does need a plan. I am proposing a fourth Budget. We’ve had three Budgets this year. We need to do three things. First of all, we need to get inflation on a pathway towards stable prices… Secondly, the government’s got to help ease family poverty, because child poverty is going to go beyond five million if we don’t take further action. And thirdly, I think what people are really looking for is a plan for growth, to get out of this. An industry policy.”
  • On his decision to cap pay rises in 2006: “Inflation was very low at that point. Look, what we’ve got at the moment is a unique set of circumstances. And you can understand that this is not one group of workers trying to leap-frog another. This is almost every worker in the country facing the biggest hit on their standards of living for fifty years. Now, any sensible government would get people round the table.”
  • On what would be a fair pay rise: “That’s for negotiation obviously, because I’m not party to all the facts about what’s happening.”
  • On whether tax cuts are needed: “I expect what the government will have to do in the autumn is abandon their corporate tax rise. I suspect they’ll not be able to go ahead with their fuel tax rise.”
  • On his advice for Starmer: “To ignore this, because what’s exciting about the possibility of Keir Starmer’s leadership is he will have a plan for Britain, he will show how we can get back growth, he will show how we can get living standards rising again. And he will show how we can have a fairer society that deals with problems like climate change.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the rail strikes are “jumping the gun” and “unncessary”, as talks are still ongoing. He argued that the unions are “determined” to go out on strike “come what may”.

He claimed that it was “for the employers” rather than the government to negotiate a settlement with the RMT and that it was a “stunt” for the union to suggest otherwise. He said he “absolutely” wants to see people receive a pay rise, including RMT workers.

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