5 August 2016
RMT Press Office:
RMT slams “punch up” DfT official for wrecking Southern strike talks as RMT offer is rejected.
RAIL UNION RMT today reacted with fury after the union was told by industry sources that top government official Peter Wilkinson, the man who bragged at a Tory party meeting that he wanted a “punch up” with rail unions and who described staff as “muppets”, was responsible for wrecking talks aimed at ending the dispute on Southern Rail by calling the shots from behind the scenes.
Those talks have now been collapsed by the Government and GTR and next week’s action goes ahead despite the fact that RMT made a solid proposal this morning to suspend the strike action if Govia matched the offer that had enabled industrial action on Scotrail to be suspended.
It was clear during the talks that external forces were preventing Govia from responding positively to a proposal that simply guaranteed the jobs and safety critical role of the guards in a mirror to what the union is being offered elsewhere in the industry. The rejection of that offer means that the responsibility for the disruption next week lies at the door of the Government and their Southern rail contractors Govia Thameslink.
RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said;
“It was clear right from the start of these talks that there was no serious intent from Govia Thameslink to engage in genuine negotiations and that their script was being written from behind the scenes by their government paymasters. You would have thought they would have taken our arm off when we offered to suspend the action in return for a series of guarantees that simply mirror the proposals from Scotrail just a couple of a few days ago.
“I have been involved in countless negotiations and have never witnessed a farce like this. The person running this circus wasn’t even in the room and we now know from well placed industry sources that it was Peter Wilkinson – the man who boasted that we was itching for a punch up with the unions. He told Govia to stonewall, reject and wreck the talks process. As they are paid directly by the Government on this contract that is exactly what they have done. It is disgraceful.
“Our action in defence of rail safety and the safety critical role of the guard now goes ahead next week and passengers caught in the middle of this wrecked process will be rightly furious that the talks that could have resolved this issue were sabotaged by Mr Wilkinson and his team from the off.
“Passengers will be well aware that Mr Wilkinson commutes from Vienna and is paid £280,000 a year as a government hit man. Our members refuse to cave in to his bullying and intimidation and will be standing firm. He made it clear in his infamous Croydon speech that he intends to starve our members back to work. It’s that aggressive and provocative attitude that has blocked all attempts to resolve the Southern dispute.
“Compared to the progress we have been able to make on Scotrail it is clear as day that GTR is being set up as a testing ground for a national union-busting experiment. That nonsense should be stopped right now and we should be allowed to get back to normal industrial relations, free from outside interference.”
Peter Wilkinson is the DfT Director responsible for rail franchising. Here are the quotes from his meeting in February this year as reported by the Croydon Advertiser.
"Over the next three years we're going to be having punch ups and we will see industrial action and I want your support," Mr Wilkinson told residents in Croydon Town Hall at a meeting organised by Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell.
"I'm furious about it and it has got to change - we have got to break them," he said.
"They have all borrowed money to buy cars and got credit cards.
"They can't afford to spend too long on strike and I will push them into that place.
"They will have to decide if they want to give a good service or get the hell out of my industry."