Transport secretary says public sector pay demands are ‘unsustainable’

The transport secretary has said inflation-beating pay rises for struggling public sector workers are “unaffordable”, raising the prospect of winter strikes across the rail network, schools and across the sector. NHS,

Mark Harper said there was no “bottomless pit” of money to meet the demands of workers planning to take industrial action in the coming weeks, even if benefits and pensions were to be in line with inflation.

Britain is facing a wave of strikes not seen for a generation, with nurses due to launch their first UK-wide action next month as they join train drivers, postal workers, civil servants and potentially Have joined the planned strike by the teachers. conditions.

The transport secretary has taken a more constructive approach to rail unions after months of impasse, in a return to the “beer and sandwich” charm of the 1970s, with RMT chief Mick Lynch meeting for talks this week and the Aslef general secretary , Mick Whelan, next week.

Departing from the more aggressive policy of his predecessor, Grant Shapps, he promised to take an “adult” approach to the dispute and help “facilitate a settlement” between the rail firms and the unions to try to avoid a strike at Christmas Could

Yet Harper told Sky’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday’s programme: “Inflation matching or inflation-beating pay rises are unsustainable. We want to try and give all those public sector workers who work very hard Yes, they make good wage increases, but they cannot be inflation-busting wage increases.

“There is no money to pay for references, we haven’t even seen them in the private sector, private sector salary hikes are generally fixed below the level of inflation, which I accept is It’s hard for people.” ,

He asserted that without reforms such as seven-day contracts, removal of ban on overtime, allowing ticket office staff to work on platforms and using technology to spot and repair faults on tracks, railway workers would not be able to work. There cannot be any substantial increment for .

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“The train operating companies and Network Rail will have the ability to reach a deal, but we have to be able to negotiate that reform package because it is the only one that drives savings. I have no way of solving this problem. Not a bottomless pit of taxpayer money,” he said.

The RMT has announced eight days of strikes in December and January, and Aslef could announce more after a meeting on 7 December. But unless a deal is struck within next week, rail companies may struggle to avoid days of disruption over Christmas as it takes time to get timetables and services back on track.

Former Tory party chairman Jake Berry said he had “real hope” for a deal as he criticized Harper’s predecessor for making a “big mistake” in taking a “don’t me gov” approach to negotiations.

TUC general secretary Francis O’Grady welcomed the Transport Secretary’s assurance that he would “encourage and help” both sides in the rail industry dispute following a standoff under his predecessor, adding that the government had the ability to “straighten the wires”. to pull”.

He said rail workers wanted a “fair share” of the £500m profit earned by the industry. “This is an industry that has made £500m profit and employees, quite rightly, who have worked through Covid want their fair share.”

Labour’s Lisa Nandy said the government should “move heaven and earth” to defuse the strikes and criticized Harper’s comments on pay rises, telling Sky News: “They’re 12 years of Tory government and Liz Truss and are ineffective because of the 44 days of Quasi.The Kwarteng crippled the economy.

“I think there should be a level of humility about this within the government. What it should do is move heaven and earth to prevent further strikes this winter. It’s been a really tough year for a lot of people.” And no one wants to see a strike, least of all for all those who have to resort to strike.

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