Union 'ashamed' of Labour for sacking shadow minister Sam Tarry for joining rail strike picket line

Former shadow transport minister Sam Tarry (left) has been sacked from Labour's frontbench. Credit: Parliament

Unions have hit out at Labour for sacking its shadow minister for joining a rail strike picket line against the orders of party leader Sir Keir Starmer.

Sam Tarry, who joined striking workers on the picket line at Euston Station in London, has been removed from Labour's front bench, the party confirmed after speculation about whether he would be punished for his defiance.

Labour said he had been sacked as a shadow transport minister for a "breach of collective responsibility", which a spokesperson added is "taken extremely seriously".

Mr Tarry said it was a "shame" to be sacked for "standing shoulder to shoulder" with rail workers and his former colleagues, and suggested his party must support strikers if it is to beat the Tories in a general election.

"The decision to go on strike today was a massive one. Often many of the workers were low paid workers people on £25,000 a year," he said.

"And I want to be part of a Labour Party and always stand up for a Labour Party that stands in solidarity with workers in their disputes wherever that may be."

"I think that we are going to really struggle to win the faith of the British people over the next few months and into general election when doctors go on strike, when nurses go on strike, when barristers and university lecturers," he continued.

"We need to be really clear, what is our economic alternative?"

The Labour Party said it had taken the action against Mr Tarry over the unauthorised media interviews he gave on the strikes.

When pressed on this alleged breach of collective responsibility, Mr Tarry said no one had told him not to be on a picket line.

The Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA) - one of the unions whose picket line Mr Tarry joined - said it was "ashamed" of the Labour Party which Sir Keir is "not worthy" of leading.

It dismissed Labour's "excuses" and called on the party to "wake up and smell the coffee", insisting it won't win an election by "pushing away" seven million trade union members.

“We expect attacks from the Tories, we don’t expect attacks from our own Party," said the TSSA in a statement.

"As a Labour-affiliated union, our union is ashamed of the actions of the Labour Party leadership and the anti-worker, anti-union message it is sending out.

"This is a bad day for our movement. And if Keir Starmer doesn't understand the basic concept of solidarity on which our movement has been built then he is not worthy of leading our Party.”

Unite the Union also hit out at Labour and said it is becoming irrelevant to working people.

In a statement, Labour said: “The Labour Party will always stand up for working people fighting for better pay, terms and conditions at work.

“This isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.

“As a government in waiting, any breach of collective responsibility is taken extremely seriously and for these reasons Sam Tarry has been removed from the frontbench.”

Asked whether he expected to be sacked by Sir Keir, Mr Tarry told ITV's Good Morning Britain earlier on the picket line: “I’ve no idea what Keir will decide to do but I know this - if Keir was in government right now, this dispute wouldn’t be happening.”

Sam Tarry spoke to GMB from the picket line outside Euston station:

He added: “I have absolutely 100% confidence that any Labour Party MP would be in support of striking workers who have given up a day’s pay, a week’s pay or even longer.”

Just one in five trains are running on Wednesday after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 14 train operators went on strike.

Further strike action has been agreed for next month, with drivers at nine rail companies set to walk out on August 13 over pay, their union Aslef announced.

Shadow ministers who attended picket lines during the last strike in June received a warning but avoided the sack.

One of them was Kate Osborne, a parliamentary aide to shadow Northern Ireland secretary Peter Kyle, who defied party policy on Wednesday.

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The Jarrow MP tweeted a photo of herself with members of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association.

Ruth Jones, a shadow environment minister, also took to Twitter to express her solidarity with the picketers.

It came a day after Sir Keir said he would again tell his frontbench MPs not to join striking workers in the latest action.

The Labour leader said: "The Labour Party in opposition needs to be the Labour Party in power.

"And a government doesn't go on picket lines, a government tries to resolve disputes."