Union leader Mick Lynch accused the BBC of “parroting” right-wing propaganda in its coverage of the rail strikes during a heated morning media round.
The RMT general secretary also took aim at Good Morning Britain’s Richard Madeley, whom he described as “ranting”, as he was interviewed about widespread industrial action.
Members of the union are pressing ahead with two 48-hour strikes at Network Rail – and 14 train companies – from Tuesday and Friday, with further action planned over the Christmas period.
Network Rail had offered a 5% pay rise for this year – backdated to January – with another 4% at the start of 2023 and a guarantee of no compulsory job losses until January 2025.
The RMT’s executive recommended rejecting the offer, saying it was linked to “significant” changes to working practices.
Appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday, Mr Lynch accused presenter Mishal Husain of showing bias when he was pressed on the average amount of pay lost by union members through strike action.
Asked to put a figure on the financial “sacrifice” he has said his workers have suffered, he said: “That depends on what shifts they were working, what rate of pay they are they earn and how many occasions they have to go out.”
He added: “What I do find annoying though, Mishal, is that you put these lines that are directly taken from the propaganda of the other side. You never show any admiration for the fight that working people are putting up in this country for the rebalancing of our society.
“You never criticise the super-rich for what they’re doing to nurses, what they’re doing to postal workers, and you never seem to take an impartial view on the way this society is balanced at the moment with the complete lack of distribution of wealth in our society.
“You always just seem to punt out anything you receive from the employers and from the Government, and that’s what I’m hearing directly through the filter of the BBC this morning.”
Husain replied: “The question was about the average amount of pay lost by your members through strike action… You’ve said your members are making a sacrifice… What’s wrong with putting a number on it?”
“Why do you need that number?” Mr Lynch fired back, before likening the BBC’s coverage to “an editorial line I could read in The Sun or The Daily Mail or any of the right-wing press in this country”.
He added: “I find this a shocking stance that the BBC will take – you’re just parroting the most right-wing stuff you can get hold of on behalf of the establishment, and it’s about time you showed some partiality towards your listeners, to working-class people in this country who are being screwed to the floor by the attitudes and policies of this Government.”
Elsewhere during the morning media round, the union leader accused GMB presenter Madeley of “ranting” and suggested he should interview himself.
Madeley put it to Mr Lynch that the rail strikes are targeting people at Christmas and could put hoteliers, restauranteurs and retailers out of business during a normally busy time of year.
Mr Lynch said: “We’re not targeting Christmas, it isn’t Christmas yet, Richard, I don’t know when your Christmas starts but mine starts on Christmas Eve.”
Madeley branded that statement “disingenuous”, adding: “Commercial Christmas starts in December, you know that.”
As the pair spoke over each other, Mr Lynch said: “Richard, why don’t you just interview yourself?”