Britain: Government spends public cash in bid to smash rail unions

Millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money will be used to fund the Conservative government’s bid to smash rail unions so that firms can impose the widespread use of driver-only operated (DOO) trains, rail union RMT warned on January 12.

Research by the union shows that government ministers were inserting new clauses in franchise agreements to allow train-operating companies to claim back any revenue lost to industrial action over the plans to get rid of guards.

This would ensure that operators make a profit of more than £1 billion over the next 20 years, according to the Railway Safety Standards Board.

Private operator Southern Railway’s contract means the company has not lost any revenue as a result of strikes over DOO. The bill, in the region of £60 million, is set to be paid by the taxpayer, according to RMT.

The Northern Rail franchise agreement, which contains a government directive to introduce DOO, also contains a clause promising that public funds will be used “to reimburse or ameliorate net losses of the franchisee arising from industrial action (however caused and of whatever nature).”

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “As with Southern, the government is inserting clauses into new franchise agreements which will mean the taxpayer will bankroll [Prime Minister] Theresa May’s war on the unions.

“It is clear that rail disputes are nothing to do with modernising our railway and everything to do with old-fashioned union-busting and cost-cutting.”

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also condemned Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s support for striking railway workers. Corbyn said he would join rail worker picket lines.

[Abridged from the Morning Star.]

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