Wed. May 31st, 2023


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Rail minister says RMT must scrap ‘appalling’ Eurovision train strike

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Transport Secretary Mark Harper condemns rail strikes around Eurovision weekend

Transport Secretary Mark Harper has slammed rail unions for threatening strike havoc to coincide with the UK’s hosting of the Eurovision Song Contest. Speaking on the BBC this morning, Mr Harper called on the RMT union to show “solidarity” with Ukraine, and call off the strike.

Talking on Laura Kuenssberg’s show, Mark Harper said the RMT’s decision to strike on the day of the Eurovision finale is “cynical” and “so appalling”. The reason why that’s so appalling is it’s not our song contest, we’re hosting it for Ukraine.

“I’ve met the head of Ukrainian railways, Putin’s targeting Ukrainian railways, there are hundreds of Ukrainian railway staff who have been killed.What we should be doing is being in solidarity with them and not targeting an event.”

The rail union has insisted the date of the planned strike is “not connected to Eurovision”, arguing that Trade Union laws force barons to give two weeks’ notice before industrial action and Saturday May 13 is the “next available day”.

However unions could have opted for May 12, which would have prevented the industrial action coinciding with the song contest final.

The Telegraph previously reported that the RMT’s targeting of Eurovision could spark renewed questions about links between Russian separatists and one of the union’s top officials.

Assistant General Secretary Eddie Dempsey previously wrote a “gushing” obituary about Alexei Mozgovoi, a former Russia-backed militia leader of the rebel-held Donbas region in Ukraine.

The article, published in 2015 but since deleted, said Mr Mozgovoi: “led 3,000 volunteers – incorporating a communist battalion – within his Ghost Brigade… who have [been] resisting the so-called Anti-Terrorist Operation of the US/EU-backed Kiev junta for more than a year”.

The union responded to questions about his words, saying the RMT “does not support either Vladimir Putin or his actions in Ukraine”.

Mr Harper also told Times Radio: “I would have thought that the executive of rail unions in Britain would have wanted to show some solidarity and will protect events like Eurovision that we’re hosting for Ukraine rather than cynically targeting it”.

“So I’d say to them, put the offer that’s been made to you, which is fair and reasonable to your members, let your members decide.

“Call off your strikes and stop targeting events, which are aimed at supporting our friends and colleagues in Ukraine.”

He pointed out that the RMT in Network Rail voted overwhelmingly to accept a pay offer from the government and end the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

In a turnout of nearly 90%, members voted 76% to 24% in favour of the deal.

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However a very similar offer by train operating companies has been put to RMT executives and for a third time the union executive won’t put it to members, instead choosing to call strikes.

Earlier this week Downing Street accused the unions of targeting “displaced Ukrainians trying to attend Eurovision”, calling the strikes “vindictive”.

The walkout will also hit punters hoping to attend the FA Cup Final and Epsom Derby.

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