Grant Shapps clash with Kay Burley as Britain suffers its biggest rail strike in 30 years

Grant Shapps clashed with broadcaster Kay Burley today as Britain suffered its biggest rail strike in 30 years.

The transport minister claimed that Burley wanted the country to go back to the 1970s with ministers negotiating unions with “beer and sandwiches”.

But the veteran broadcaster replied, “You have to go around the table and you have to sort this mess out.”

It comes as more than 50,000 members of the Rail, Marine and Transport (RMT) union have pulled out, bringing the national rail network to a standstill. London Underground workers are also on strike.

During the brief exchange on Sky News, Shapps also insisted that the train companies would press ahead with the “modernization” reforms that the unions are working on.

“Why don’t you roll up your sleeves and get around the table with the unions this week so we don’t see two more strikes?” asked Burley.

Shapps insisted that employers are the people who should negotiate with unions, adding, “It is always the employers and unions who have to compromise on these matters.”

Burley told him, “Aren’t you right in saying that the government is the only shareholder in Network Rail? It belongs to the government, the government determines its funding. You participate whether you say you are or not. You are the Minister of Transportation. It is your responsibility to keep the country running. Why not? Rolling up your sleeves and tidying them up?”

Shapps said that if he thought there was a “one in a million chance” that having him in the room would help, he would be there.

However, he said the entry of ministers into the hall would “undermine the process”.

He told Burley it was “red bullshit” and added, “You’re saying that because unions and labor suddenly got together and said ‘Why are there no ministers in the room?'” “.

When the firefighters went on strike under Tony Blair, the cabinet minister said, it remained with the employers, and the same when the post office workers went on strike under Gordon Brown.

Then he told her, “I guess what you’re asking is for me to go back to those bad old days in the ’70s when then Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson had beer and sandwiches with them in Downing Street and it didn’t work out well.”

Burley replied: “You’re the Secretary of Transportation, you represent the government. In other words, you represent the traveling public and they’re going to be all this week on a standstill, as I said, people might die as a result of these strikes.

“You need to roll up your sleeves, you need to get into this meeting room with the guilds and you need to sort this out that viewers are going to yell at their girlfriends this morning.”

Shapps told her he had tried to explain “many times” that this was not the way industrial disputes were resolved.

“Well,” replied Burley, “just because you’ve made it clear to me several times, Mr. Shapps, doesn’t mean your point is necessarily correct.

“I go back to the point that the government is the only shareholder in Network Rail – it belongs to the government, and the government determines its funding.

“How can you claim non-participation, unwillingness to participate, and inability to participate when that is exactly the point?

“You should talk to the guilds, you should wrap around the table and you should sort this mess out.

“Your country has reached a dead end and it is your responsibility.”

Shapps claimed again that Burley wanted to take the country back to the 1970s and added: “This is a ploy that I am afraid will be abandoned, by unions and Labor.”

The transportation secretary also said new laws allowing flexible workers, such as agency employees, to cover strikers, could be introduced within months.

He told LBC Radio: “We are going to change the law to ensure there is more flexibility, and the law sometimes referred to as proxy is actually more about portability.

This kind of modernization, if we cannot obtain it by agreement with the unions, can be achieved by changing the law. We will change the law in a quick order in the next month or two to ensure that transferable skills are allowed.”

Tuesday marks the first national rail strike across England, Scotland and Wales – two more are due to take place on Thursday and Saturday.

The suit, by RMT union members, is more about wages and layoffs, with more strike dates later this month and in July.

London Underground workers also went on strike in a separate dispute over pensions and job losses.

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