Rail unions blasted for ‘cynically targeting’ Eurovision ‘as we’re hosting it for Ukraine’


The UK’s transport minister has blamed rail unions for targeting Eurovision (Picture: BBC)

The transport secretary has accused rail unions of ‘cynically targeting’ the Eurovision Song Contest.

Mark Harper was questioned over whether the government had failed in its duty to agree a deal with the RMT when appearing on Laura Kuenssberg’s show on BBC One this morning.

Rail workers are set to strike on May 13 – the day of Eurovision 2023 in Liverpool – after the RMT union rejected the latest offer.

When asked if the government was at fault for the huge disruption set to be caused, Mr Harper deflected blame onto the RMT, and even brought the war in Ukraine into the debate.

He told viewers: ‘The fair and reasonable pay offer that Network Rail made to their staff was put by the RMT to their members and it was overwhelmingly accepted – 90% turnout, 76% voted in favour of it.

‘What is inexplicable to me is that a very similar offer has been made by the trade operating companies through their grouping.

‘It’s been put to the RMT executive and for the third time, the RMT executive won’t put it to their members and instead have called strikes which are cynically targeting the Eurovision song contest.’

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Mr Harper then implied that choosing to stage the strikes on the same day as Eurovision was misguided given the events of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

He said: ‘The reason why that’s so appalling is that it’s not our song contest, we’re hosting it for Ukraine.

‘And I’ve met the head of the Ukrainian railways – Putin is targeting Ukrainian railways. 

‘There are hundreds of Ukrainian railway staff who have been killed. 

‘What we should be doing is being in solidarity with them, not targeting an event.’

Mark Harper labelled the union’s decision as ‘appalling’ (Picture: BBC)

Laura Kuenssberg repeatedly questioned Mr Harper over whether the government was happy to allow strike action to continue until Christmas, as has been warned by unions, without coming to agreements over pay.

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He replied: ‘The people that work in those industries have got to make a judgement about whether they accept the pay offer. 

‘It’d be nice if they were given the opportunity to make a decision about it.’

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