Monty Grayling's Flying Circus

28 February 2019

Travelling around the country attending branches and meetings I notice a mood of increasing uncertainty driven by the shambles this Tory government is inflicting on our industry and our communities with a nonsense Brexit deal that pleases no one – whatever their political perspective.


The latest fiasco saw Chris Grayling give a contract to a sea freight company with no ships. That contract has now been cancelled at, they said, no cost but, on scrutiny, consultants cost a whopping £800,000 and the local council stands to go down for £2 million.


There is a march in London by the POA on Wednesday 20 March dealing with the legacy issues from when Mr Grayling was in charge of that department and I imagine that, along with members of the rail unions, and probation unions, it will be well attended by those who have been impacted by Mr Grayling’s long career of political and industrial destruction.


We point to the long, harsh, government sponsored GTR dispute and the impact that had across the rail industry; the £2 billion lost on the proposed early termination of the East Coast contract which, in real terms, is even greater as it was terminated even earlier; the cancellation of manifesto pledges for electrification in the East Midlands, TPE, and elsewhere. The knock-on effect of the lack of trains and the timetable debacle on Northern and GTR that dented public faith in rail – which would have been a hundred times worse but for the dedication of staff which has never been recognised.


Blaming rail staff for the high cost of fares is reminiscent of the famous Monty Python sketch with workers expected to pay for the privilege of working to support the profits of the privateers that do not repay the subsidies they receive before taking money out of our industry.


And have we heard any mention of executive pay or bonuses being limited? I wish Keith Williams well with his rail review, wading through the chaos of an industry in meltdown; staff morale has never been lower and employers talk to me, offline, about a total lack of strategic direction.


Failing Grayling’s previous history has been routinely overturned: £170 million to put probation right, the book ban for prisoners, unpaid work for benefit claimants, £20 million on a failed tagging system, tribunal fees, legal aid cuts that led to the deaths of prisoners, jail contracts with Saudi Arabia; all overturned by his successors or when challenged through the courts.


The legacy of hurt by this government – to our industry and our communities – is a matter of public record. It needs to stop. It will take generations to correct but think how much worse it would be without the trade unions and civil society organisations who have battled for a better world.


Yours fraternally,


Mick Whelan

General Secretary

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