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Bishop's Stortford MP under fire for rail strike stance

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Hertford and Stortford Labour Party has confirmed its support for striking rail workers – and rapped MP Julie Marson's response.

The constituency opposition claimed the Conservative had failed to encourage the Government to take responsibility for its role in the dispute, negotiate a better deal for workers and avoid industrial action.

Last week Mrs Marson blasted union bosses, dubbing them "donkeys" over the disruption to services which began on Monday (June 20). She said: "I am on the side of my hard-working constituents – employed and self-employed – going about their ordinary business on a day-to-day basis.

MP Julie Marson (57511117)
MP Julie Marson (57511117)

"I do not believe that the unions are working in the best interests of the heroes who have been supporting our rail network and our rail industry over the last two years."

Today (Thursday, June 23) on the second of three walk-outs planned this week, the Hertford and Stortford Labour Party acknowledged the inconvenience caused by the strikes, "particularly those trying to get to work, exams or hospital appointments," but said the RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers) had been negotiating for months to avoid industrial action to no avail.

Cllr Carolyn Redfern, leader of the Labour Group on East Herts Council, said: "The Government described our rail workers as heroes during the pandemic – now they want to make thousands of job cuts, close ticket offices and allow employers to undermine workers' pay and conditions.

Carolyn Redfern (57511222)
Carolyn Redfern (57511222)

"Contrary to the assertion that this dispute is over train drivers' pay, it actually largely involves station and on-train staff, earning only £25,000 to £31,000 a year, while some rail network bosses have taken home pay packets of £1m-plus and rail companies have made profits of £500m-plus since the start of the pandemic.

"No one wants these strikes, but the proposed cuts would only allow rail companies to rake in more profit with no regard to staff or passengers and they should be challenged."

The RMT fears more than 1,000 ticket offices, including Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth, face closure under rail industry plans, making the railway less safe, secure and accessible for passengers.

Josh Dean, the constituency Labour Party communications officer and vice-chair of GMB London Young Workers, criticised Mrs Marson for her lack of action and disinterest in local services.

Josh Dean (57511129)
Josh Dean (57511129)

"In spite of Ms Marson's claims to be on the side of passengers in Parliament last week, she appears to have taken no action whatsoever to encourage the Government to negotiate a better deal for rail workers, protect our local services and avoid strike action.

"If Ms Marson cared about passengers, then she would be fighting against job cuts in our communities, particularly those in ticket offices that would make our stations less accessible and less safe."

A third strike, by more than 40,000 RMT members from Network Rail and 13 train operators, including Greater Anglia, is planned on Saturday (June 25) with knock-on effects of industrial action set to disrupt services until Sunday.

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