The Minister of Sports Nigel Huddleston has accused rail unions of targeting the Commonwealth Games with strike action planned ahead of opening day.
The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) has planned a walkout on 27 July in a row over job security, pay and working conditions. The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) has also scheduled action on 30 July.
Recent negotiations have failed to provide a settlement as the UK experienced its biggest train strike in decades last June.
Whilst unions have long hoped for a settlement to avoid strikes, MP Huddleston has reportedly told the BBC the strike action ‘deliberately and consciously’ targets the Commonwealth Games and he is encouraging unions to scrap planned actions.
“This has got a huge knock-on impact and I don’t think the public are going to be too sympathetic to this,” Huddleston said.
Simon Weller, Aslef’s Assistant General Secretary, has rebutted to say his members do not wish for the strike to go ahead as he urged the industry to quickly work on an agreement: “We want to sit down with the employers and negotiate a settlement to this dispute.”
In anticipation of rail strikes, Transport for West Midlands has announced more than 200 extra buses and coaches to transport people to the games.
Trade unions and workers at waste collection service Serco have also declared strike action from 28 through 29 July in Sandwell, Birmingham’s neighbouring city. Further protests will follow on 4, 5 and 8 August – the final day of the Commonwealth Games.
“Our members have asked for nothing more than a fair pay rise, after keeping communities here in Sandwell clean and safe throughout the pandemic,” said Justine Jones, an organiser at GMB.
“The eyes of the world will be on our area during the Commonwealth Games, it’s a shame that Serco have put the bottom line before their own workforce and community in this way.
“This is a big distraction from the Games and we hope Serco see sense and urgently bring a pay rise to the table that reflects the hard work and dedication of our members.”