RMT's Eddie Dempsey clashes with Nick Robinson on strikes
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The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers has voted in favour of national strike action on railways. RMT has argued the strike is necessary to secure better pay and working conditions for rail staff despite the enormous level of disruption strike action would cause to travel. Senior assistant general secretary for RMT, Eddie Dempsey defended the threat of strike action in a radio interview with host Nick Robinson.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Mr Dempsey said: “We don’t think it’s unreasonable, what we’re asking for is a pay rise.
“Some of our members are in the third year of a pay freeze this year and we’re asking for a no compulsory redundancy guarantee.
“We’re not saying that there’s going to be no jobs lost in the industry, we just want that managed in a way that protects people’s security.
“And, we want a settlement on our terms and conditions – we don’t think that’s unreasonable, having worked through the pandemic, extremely hard, whilst the private companies continued to make profits during that period.
“We expect our members to be paid and it’s not unreasonable, I don’t think.”
Radio host Mr Robinson was quick to point out the fact that the wages of rail workers are already far higher than other essential public sector employees.
He said: “Average pay, so-called median pay, of your members is £46,000, that’s currently £10,000 more than a teacher, £15,000 more than a nurse.
“Do you think your members deserve to get paid even more than those key public sector workers?”
The senior assistant general secretary for RMT denied the claims of Mr Robinson and asserted that the wages of rail staff were far lower, maintaining that the strike was justifiable.
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Mr Dempsey said: “Plenty of our members are on far lower than that, most of our membership is on around £24,000.”
Mr Robinson defended his statistics: “Well, I’m giving you the average, it’s called the median and the median is £46,000.”
The RMT representative continued: “It’s average, but you’ve got to appreciate the railway includes extremely skilled people that are engineers and are other technical people.
“So, people are paid according to their skill, but at the bottom of it, the median pay rise we’ve had has been zero for three years.”
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Despite the far higher wages of rail workers when compared to both nurses and teachers, Mr Dempsey continued to claim that a pay rise among RMT members was a necessity.
Steve Montgomery, managing director of First Rail, said: “Proposing strike action is not going to help the situation, it’s going to make it worse for our staff, for Mr Dempsey’s members.”
As RMT members voted in favour of the action, strikes will now be scheduled across June, set to cause major disruption to the UK transport network.
A statement from RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “We sincerely hope ministers will encourage the employers to return to the negotiating table and hammer out a reasonable settlement with the RMT.”
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