Grayling’s “blame the unions” claim destroyed by Channel Four FactCheck

18 January 2018

Under pressure Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling has been caught out telling porkies by Channel 4 FactCheck when he blamed “militant unions” for the “vast majority” of disruption to passengers on Southern Rail.

The extraordinary claim was made as Grayling tried to defend himself after the National Audit Office (NAO) strongly criticised the Department for Transport for their handling of the fiasco on Southern Rail.

The NAO report pointed out the DfT did not seek sufficient assurance that Govia Thameslink would have enough train drivers and that they contracted the operator to deliver a level of increased services, despite being warned that the network could not support the proposed timetables. The report also explains that the DfT failed to “fully evaluate the possible effects on passengers of different scenarios of industrial action before awarding the contract.”

Yet when questioned on this, Mr Grayling did what Tory ministers do best and blamed the workforce. To do so he used the Gibb Report which was commissioned by the government and finished in 2016. It was only released after calls for it to be made public, and even then, much remains redacted.

Channel 4 point out “the report does not include any statistics to back up this claim,” that union were the primary cause of disruption. When they contacted Mr Gibb, he was unable to provide any figures to prove the claim one way or the other and confirmed his assertion about the unions was therefore “a personal judgement.”

Mr Gibb who was an executive at Virgin Rail for many years, brags in his CV about acting against strikes by working as guard during periods of industrial action. He also proudly boasts that he is the managing director of an outsourced train catering firm which he describes as “non-union.” It’s pretty clear why the Secretary of State would trust the “personal judgement” of Mr Gibb.

FactCheck, relying on evidence rather than “personal judgement” concluded that “we cannot find any statistics to show that unions caused the majority of all disruption. We asked the Department for Transport, NAO and the Office of Road and Rail, but none of the figures that we were referred to showed this.” We’ll let members know when we receive Mr Grayling’s retraction in the post. 

Channel 4’s full post can be found here: https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/no-statistics-for-chris-graylings-claim-over-rail-unions

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