The First Minister failed to condemn the rail strikes bringing the country to a halt today despite the enormous economic cost being inflicted on Wales.
In First Minister Questions, Leader of the Opposition Andrew RT Davies MS asked Mark Drakeford if he supported the strikes that UK Hospitality say could cost businesses across the UK a billion pounds.
The Welsh Labour leader failed to give a yes or no answer, saying “there are no strikes in Wales”, which will be news to the thousands across Wales who cannot catch a train as stations lie empty.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research said that more than a quarter of a million people will be unable to work today because of the rail strikes, adding the worker absences costs “could cut up to 0.1 percentage points off the second quarter growth figure, increasing the risk of recession.”
In response, the Welsh Conservative leader stressed that he defends the right of people to strike but that “a minimum level of service guaranteed on key transport infrastructure”.
He stressed that railways are stuck in 1950s working practices and unions are refusing reforms to modernise such as using drones to improve safety during track inspections, apps for Network Rail to communicate with employees in vulnerable locations, and even sharing vans to work.
Davies added that he’s on the side of the workers who use rail services to get to their jobs – and might be incurring extra costs or losing a day’s pay because of the strikes – who typically earn less than the average railway employee, as well as pupils who cannot get to their summer exams.
Trains in Wales have not had a good 2022 – ticket prices went up 4% earlier this year, overcrowding and cancellations is regular, and poor planning has seen this get worse during major events such as when Ed Sheeran recently visited Cardiff.
Commenting afterwards, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies MS said:
“When the cost-of-living is on the up, unions should not be dictating to their members to bring the country to a halt when doing so jeopardises people’s pay and hits them in the pocket further.
“We have to remember that the average rail employee takes home far more money than the average worker, something that has not been taken into account by a Labour party stuck in the 50s.
“It is very disappointing that the First Minister has not condemned these strikes and I am certain that workers from Abergele to Aberdare will have taken notice.”