A Teesside MP has apologised for the ‘misery’ rail strikes are likely to cause this week but said it is not up to the Government to resolve the dispute.

Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, told Sky News on Monday (June 20) morning: “I fear it is likely they will go ahead.”

He said: “Ultimately this is a matter between the employers, the train operating companies and Network Rail, and the trade unions and the Government doesn’t sit directly as a part of those talks for a very good reason – that we don’t intervene in a specific process between an employer and the unions representing employees, but we are there to provide the support and enabling framework for those talks to succeed.

“We don’t control all the levers that need to be held here.”

He also apologised for the ‘misery’ the rail strike will cause and denied that the Government is actively looking for a fight with unions.

Read more: Rail strikes: Northern confirms timetable

“We absolutely don’t want them to go ahead, I recognise this is going to cause misery for millions of people and I am profoundly sorry about that,” he told BBC Breakfast.

“No-one is suggesting there’s some kind of pay freeze required here, we all want to see a sensible pay increase.

“Linked to that we need to see reform of some of the practices that make our railway a very unsustainable entity at the moment.”

The Northern Echo: Strikes are expected to cause travel chaos this week. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTTStrikes are expected to cause travel chaos this week. Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

Members of the RMT union are set to strike over pay on 21, 23 and 25 June but disruption is expected to last all week.

More than 50,000 railway workers will walkout as part of the national strike, in the biggest dispute on the rail network since in over 30 years.

Simon Clarke, who has been MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland since 2017, said the Government’s involvement in talks over the rail dispute would ‘confuse things’ as he called for industry reforms.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Ultimately, it will only confuse things if we add a third party to these negotiations.

“The train operating companies and Network Rail are working to deliver a sensible programme of reform and a sensible and fair pay deal with the trade unions.”

Read more: Ferryhill railway station could be reopened under new plans 

“The practices that are in place across the network are out with the ark, frankly, and need to be reformed.

“It cannot be the case that we have put in £16 billion during the pandemic as taxpayers, worth £600 per household, and still have a railway system where some of what goes on occurs and where, frankly, fares are higher than they need to be, and efficiency is lower than it should be because of the way the trade unions operate.”

A statement from the RMT union said: “In the past few weeks, discussions have been taking place at senior level with Network Rail, Train Operators and London Underground.

“Despite the best efforts of our negotiators no viable settlements to the disputes have been created.”


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