Striking rail employees ought to need to stand in solidarity with fellow Ukrainian employees fairly than “cynically target” the Eurovision Song Contest, which the UK is internet hosting on behalf of the war-torn nation, the transport secretary has mentioned.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme, Mark Harper argued the stricken nation’s practice community has been the precise focus of assaults by invading Russian forces on the orders of Vladimir Putin.
But the cupboard minister’s feedback have been derided as “bizarre” by a union chief on the centre of the rail dispute, who highlighted his group’s help for Ukraine and argued in search of a pay rise had nothing to do with the battle.
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Mr Harper was talking after it was introduced members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at 14 practice operators would walkout on the day of the Eurovision ultimate being staged in Liverpool on 13 May.
It comes after the union’s govt rejected the most recent supply geared toward resolving a long-running pay row.
The RMT settled a dispute with Network Rail final month.
The practice driver’s union Aslef can also be to carry strikes on the eve of the Eurovision competitors on 12 May and 31 May, in addition to on 3 June, the day of the FA Cup Final.
Mr Harper instructed Ridge: “I feel it’s totally damaging that the rail unions are calling a strike particularly concentrating on the Eurovision Song Contest.
“I’ve met with the head of Ukrainian Railways. The Ukrainian railways have been specifically targeted by Vladimir Putin. Rail workers are being killed in their hundreds.
“And I’d have thought, frankly, rail employees would have needed to face in solidarity with them fairly than concentrating on the Eurovision Song Contest, which, for those who keep in mind, it isn’t our music contest.
“We are hosting it, but we’re hosting it for Ukraine and I think cynically targeting events that hard-working, working men and women across the country are spending their money on to try and attend and targeting those I think is very cynical.”
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But hitting again, Aslef basic secretary Mick Whelan mentioned: “I take my hat off to Mr Harper, because of all the accusations I have ever heard, and I have heard a good few in my time, this really is the most ridiculous.
“He claims we aren’t standing in solidarity with Ukraine when he is aware of – or ought to know – that now we have stood in solidarity with the folks of that nation for much longer than he has.”
He added: “I have been to Ukraine – I was there as the Russian tanks invaded – and Aslef’s assistant general secretary, Simon Weller, has been there to talk to rail workers when the Russian bombs were falling. Mr Harper hasn’t. And we are members of the Ukraine Solidarity Campaign. Mr Harper isn’t.
“So I’m not going to take any classes in solidarity from a Tory cupboard minister who does not perceive what he’s speaking about.
“Standing shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine has nothing to do with the Eurovision Song Contest, anyway, bless him.
“And we aren’t even on strike on the day of the competition, anyway.”
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Mr Whelan went on: “The truth is that Mr Harper should tell the train companies to come back to the negotiating table and make train drivers who have not had a pay increase since 2019 a sensible offer so they can buy, this year, what they could buy four years ago. Then there would be no more strikes.
“The solely people who find themselves chargeable for the continued strikes on this nation – in all of the totally different sectors of the British financial system – are the federal government and the employers.
“And seeking a pay increase has nothing whatsoever to do with Ukraine.”
The RMT declined to remark.