Employment

Tory MPs have been saying railway workers earn more than they actually do

Independent fact checker Full Fact has waded in to set the record straight on how much railway workers really earn after the transport secretary got it wrong.

A protestor shows his support for striking transport workers at the We Demand Better rally in London on June 18. Image Eliza Pitkin / The Big Issue

Conservative MPs have been sharing false information about the average salary of rail workers currently on strike over pay.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps and Conservative MPs Nick Fletcher, Jonathan Gullis and Chris Philp have all claimed the average rail worker earns £44,000 per year, but independent fact checking organisation Full Fact says it’s not true. 

Government critics of the strike have used the figure to suggest it would be unfair for railway workers to be given a pay rise by suggesting they earn more than nurses.

Over 40,000 RMT members are currently taking part in their second of three days of planned strike action, making it the biggest rail strike in 30 years.

The union says its members working for National Rail and Transport for London haven’t been given a pay rise for two or three years, despite inflation reaching 9.1 per cent in May.

“The average train driver earns £59,000, the average rail worker earns £44,000, the average nurse, £31,000,” tweeted Shapps.

But union the RMT has hit back, saying the average salary of its striking members is at least £10,000 less than the MPs are saying, at £33,000. The Office for National Statistics produced an average of £36,800 in 2021.

Shapps’ figure includes the salaries of train drivers – who are paid a lot more but are not striking. It does not include the salaries of cleaners – who earn a lot less and are on strike. 

“It would appear that the median salary of those participating in the current RMT national rail strike action is significantly below the median rail worker salary of £44,000 being referenced by the government”, Full Fact said. 

Morgan Paulett, who earns £21,000 a year as a station support assistant, spoke to The Big Issue at the Kings Cross Station picket line.

“There has been no change in pay over the last three years because workers have been subject to a pay freeze,” he said.  

“Most of all, even though pay is a big issue for me personally, the cuts they are going to make to the railways are going to be incredibly dangerous.”

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