Letter from Local MP Karin Smyth Supporting the Railway Workers’ Strike

A few weeks ago I had an email from one of the left wing organisations asking me to write to my local MP to get them to support the railway workers strike. It was part of a national campaign, and they had already created a form letter you could use so that all you really needed to do is add your name and address. I was very happy to do this, as the railway workers’ strike isn’t just about the pay and conditions for the train drivers, but for all the railway workers, some of whom are going to be paid much less than them. And there are important questions regarding public safety, as well as the fundamental issue of the right to strike. Which the Tories would dearly love to strip from working people.

On Friday I was delighted to receive this reply from my local Labour MP for Bristol south, Karin Smyth, in which she gave her full support to the RMT strikers.

The letter reads:

‘Dear David

Thank you for contacting me about the industrial action on pay and conditions for rail workers

I appreciate the concerns you raise. Rail workers showed real bravery to keep the country going during the pandemic and were promised a high-wage economy by the Government as we emerged from it. Yet since then we have seen the biggest fall; in living standards since records began. I believe the Transport Secretary owes it to those rail workers, as well as the millions of people who rely on them, to help reach a deal.

However the Government’s legislation this week shows that rather than negotiating they are seeking to make the situation worse.

I agree the issues involved in this dispute are very serious, involving pay and cuts in safety and maintenance staff. The only way it can be resolved is with a deal on pay and job security, as it has been in Wales, where the devolved Government came together with employers and unions to manage change and avoid a strike. Employees have every right to fight for fair pay. I and my Opposition colleagues with always defend the right to strike.

The Transport Secretary has said these negotiations are a matter between the employer and the union. However, independent legal advice commissioned by the TUC found train operators “are not free to agree terms and conditions” with their employees without the involvement of the Secretary of State. It also found that he possesses “very significant contractual power to direct how industrial action such as the current strike is handled”.

I strongly believe helping resolve industrial disputes within and between publicly owned bodies like Network Rail is absolutely the Government’s duty, especially when rail is so key for our economy. My concern is that without a mandate to negotiate, talks between rail operators and unions are condemned to failure.

I am also alarmed by the Government’s plans to replace picketing workers with agency staff, which has been condemned by some of the biggest employment agencies in the country. In my opinion, it is unworkable, unsafe and goes against good employment practices and I will be working with colleagues to oppose the legislation on all counts.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Yours sincerely,

Karin Smyth

Labour MP for Bristol South.’

I am delighted that Karin is supporting the railway worker’s strike and opposing the government’s attempts to deny them the wages and conditions they deserve, but also to jeopardise public safety on this vital piece of our economy.


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6 Responses to “Letter from Local MP Karin Smyth Supporting the Railway Workers’ Strike”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    From your description, she seems to me like a decent MP. I thought she’d be against the strikes though, as I thought she was a (backbench) Starmerite.

    • beastrabban Says:

      She is a Starmerite, and I wondered what her attitude to the strikes would be as at the Thursday meeting she was against MPs joining picket lines. She maintained that Labour solidly supported the right to strike, and that they should be concentrating on winning elections. This meant not exacerbating industrial relations. This isn’t an answer that satisfied me, but I’m glad that she is supporting the strike.

  2. Brian Burden Says:

    Good for Karin. I doubt if her position has Starmer’s blessing.

    • beastrabban Says:

      She’s a member of the Shadow Cabinet and definitely loyal to him. I think it’s because of the work he did on the Northern Ireland peace process, though others were also involved. But I do wonder how secure her position is, considering Starmer’s glaring lack of principles. I think he’ll dump her and everything she stands for, no matter how loyal she is, and soon as he thinks he can appeal to a few more Tories.

  3. Jim Round Says:

    I’m glad Karin Smyth is supporting the right to strike, however, I do not believe that Labour, if they win the next election, will repeal any anti union or anti worker laws.
    Strange how this attack on the democratic rights of workers does not outrage certain groups and individuals.

  4. Que? Says:

    It’s good to know that some MPs are supporting the railway strikers.

    I do too. Mick Lynch and Eddie Dempsey are class acts that are articulate and intelligent.

    It’s funny that GB News and Talk TV/Radio (I admit that I do listen to them and agree with some of their views) side with the Trucker protests in Canada (& possibly the USA) and the Dutch Farmer protests (as they should) but vilify the Railway strikers (and the soon to be strikes of other professions like postal workers, etc).

    For me, I side with the working man and their right to protest and strike. I side with The North American Trucker, The Farmers, The Railway workers, The Postal workers, etc.

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