TUC’s Frances O’Grady slams government for rail chaos

TUC’s Frances O’Grady slams government for rail chaos

FRANCES O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC has said that the current and continuing rail strikes are the symptoms of the current crisis on the railways, not the cause of the chaos.

She pointed out to the BBC’s Paddy O’Connell, presenter of the current affairs magazine Broadcasting House that Britain has the highest inflation of all G7 nations, and that the cost of living crisis is causing real suffering. She explained to O’Connell, “People only go on strike when there is no other choice left to them.

“The cause of the rail strikes is because the government is stopping the rail companies coming to the table and coming up with a fair solution. And we know that there are train companies who want to do that.”

She told Paddy O’Connell on Broadcasting House last Sunday morning that Minister Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport has the power to do just that, and thus stymie any chance of a resolution to the industrial action. “He has got clauses in every contract with companies where he sets out dispute-handling policies that they must follow or they risk losing out financially from the government,” she said.

O’Grady added that she believes that the government is being dishonest about its role in the dispute. “The government is in the middle of a conservative leadership contest and does not want to see a settlement,” she said. “Employers and unions are being prevented from doing what we do every week of every year which is negotiate, compromise and come up with fair solutions.

“That’s what the employers want to do, it’s what the employers want to do, I think it’s what some of the train operating companies want to do. But currently government ministers are stopping them because they want to distract from the fact that they have not got a grip on the cost of living crisis that is hitting Britain much worse than other comparable countries.”

Asked by Paddy O’Connell whether she felt that Labour MPs should go on the picket line, she said: “I want any politician to show some practical support who really feel their backs are against the wall. So of course politicians should be supporting workers.

“But most of all what I really want to see is a government in power prepared to be on the side of working people — to stop these P&O style threats from the government about replacing strikers with agency labour and going for a hire and fire strategy. That is what they are currently threatening.

“What they should be doing is tackling the cost of living crisis.”

Frances O’Grady, who lives in London, is the first woman to hold the position of TUC General Secretary. Earlier this year she announced she will step down from the at the end of 2022. A Catholic, O’Grady is from an Irish family: her mother was from Dublin and her father’s family were from Cork. They met in a Dublin dancehall and moved to England to find work.