The government offers ‘misleading’, legal advice on the role of rail strikes.

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The government has been accused of “misleading” the public by saying it has no role in negotiations to resolve the bitter rail dispute.

The TUC said an independent legal opinion undermined the government’s claim that the dispute was only between train operators and unions.

The union said the legal opinion it received clarifies that agreements between rail operators and the government allow the government to impose financial sanctions if the operators do not follow its instructions in the current dispute.

Platform closed at Waterloo Station, London during strikes (Dominic Lipinski / PA) / PA Wire

A legal opinion commissioned by TUC on behalf of Michael Ford QC of the Old Square Chambers suggests that Transport Secretary Grant Sheppard has “very wide powers” over what was agreed between rail operators and unions. Can go, and the “most important agreement power” is how to direct it. TUC said industrial disputes are settled.

As advised, rail operators are not free to agree to terms and conditions with their employees without the involvement of the Transport Secretary, Grant Ships.

Legal advice to the TUC further states that before negotiating salaries, terms and conditions, redundancy, or reorganization with rail unions, rail operators must agree to a mandate with the transport secretary.

However, the Department of Transportation said it was “misleading” to say Mr Sheppard should be included in the talks.

We have always believed that Conservative ministers have the power to pull the strings of train companies behind the scenes, and this legal opinion on rail contracts confirms this.

Rail, maritime and transport union members working on jobs, salaries and conditions disrupted train services again on Sunday morning after a third strike on Saturday.

TUC General Secretary Francis Ogreddy said: “The Prime Minister and his Transport Secretary have misled the people.

“When he said that the government has no role in dealing with this dispute, it is not true.

“When he says negotiations are only for employers and unions, that’s not true.

“We have always believed that Conservative ministers have the power to pull the strings of train companies behind the scenes, and this legal opinion on rail contracts confirms that.

Transport Secretary Grant Ships talks to the media at College Green, Central London (PA). / PA Wire

“The transport secretary can open up the controversy. Instead, he has visited TV studios that are fueling the fire and trying to turn working people against each other.

“We deserve honesty from our government. We deserve fair negotiations so that we can reach fair agreements.

“This week, the UK needs its Conservative government to stop stirring up and start helping to resolve this dispute. They deserve protection and a reasonable increase in their salary.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said: “It is very misleading to suggest that the Secretary of Transportation should be involved in these negotiations.

“Its role is to protect the public purse, to ensure the value of money for the hardworking people of this country.

“Thus, it needs to set limits on taxpayer support and ultimately sign any agreement – not engage in any negotiations – and its agreements with operators allow it to be fixed.”

“The union is well aware that negotiations on pay and working methods are not with the government – they are with the employers of the people they represent. In this case, they are the network rail and train operating companies. ۔

“We once again urge union representatives to return to the negotiating table instead of going on further strikes, which are disrupting people across the country.”