Burnham says those on strike ‘should not be blamed’ for chaos

Question Time: Andy Burnham receives applause from audience

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Labour’s Andy Burnham has insisted that “all of the blame” for the current strike chaos facing Britain lies with the Government. The Mayor of Greater Manchester issued a defiant call for Britons not to blame those on strike during an appearance on BBC Question Time. This comes as the RMT announced a fresh wave of rail strikes in the run-up to Christmas, while nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland announced their biggest walkout in the NHS’s history.

Discussing the strikes, Mr Burnham said the Government’s failure to negotiate with unions poses a “serious risk to us all” this winter.

He said: “In these circumstances with the cost of living where it is and where pay has been, and you have a Government that won’t negotiate with the unions – because they haven’t been negotiating – I don’t think it’s fair to blame people in those circumstances.

“The Government has to bear a significant amount, if not all of the responsibility.”

He pointed to Conservative MP, Richard Holden, who also appeared on the programme, and continued: “Richard said the RMT had been aggressive.

“But they called off strikes a couple of weeks ago because there had been some progress!”

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The Greater Manchester Mayor added: “But when there is no progress and train operators say ‘we can’t do it, only the Government can sort it out the deal,’ no wonder they have to try and move things on.

“I would say, don’t blame people who are fighting for their family income at this difficult time.

“We are going to go into a winter where people are going to have to use candles to keep warm in their home, or not keeping warm and risk going into hospital.

“If the Government lets nurses, paramedics, and firefighters go out on strike, that is a serious risk to us all.

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“I would say they deserve a fair pay rise – get behind them and give them a fair pay rise now.”

These remarks earned a huge amount of applause from the Question Time audience in Skipton.

Mr Holden, who serves as Under-Secretary of State for Transport, complained that the RMT union had “put the country on a precipice” with the strike announcement.

When Mr Holden told Mr Burnham to “have a word with your mates in the unions,” the Labour Mayor responded: “How about you do it? You are a transport minister!”

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Following his appearance, Mr Burnham tweeted: “Just done #bbcqt in Skipton.

“Felt to me like the Government are going to have to rethink their approach to public sector pay and strikes.

“The public are more on side with workers and their unions than Ministers seem to think.”

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) strikes will take place on 15 and 20 December, amid its pay dispute with the Government.

Over 40,000 members across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will walk out on 13, 14, 16 and 17 December and on 3, 4, 6 and 7 January.

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