Brace for a summer of discontent: Militant union boss says rail strikes could SPREAD to other sectors, as Grant Shapps accuses RMT of ‘gunning’ for industrial action which will cause misery for millions
Union chiefs behind next week’s disruptive rail strikes have today claimed other sectors could follow their lead and launch their own walk outs – as ministers today accused barons ‘nostalgic for union power’ of ‘gunning’ for industrial action.
Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT), today said he believed other unions will launch strike ballots because ‘people can’t take it anymore’.
It comers as RMT workers are set to go on strike next week, sparking rail misery for millions of Britons. The action will take place across 13 train operators and Network Rail on Tuesday, Thursday and next Saturday. There will also be a London Underground strike on Tuesday.
Rail passengers have been urged not to travel by train during next week’s strike action – with some operators even warning commuters of serious disruption to schedules on non-strike days next week due to a knock-on effect of the industrial action. A number of events have also been cancelled as a result of the strikes.
Last night it was announced that discussions between unions and Network Rail, train operators and London Underground had failed, ending hope of an 11th hour-deal to call off the strikes.
Today Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the strike was ‘disastrous’ and that would ‘inconvenience millions of British workers’. He also lashed out at union barons, who he said were ‘gunning for a strike’ and claimed the RMT were ‘jeopardising the future of the railway itself’ by pushing back against the railways being ‘modernised’.
But Mr Lynch did not appear to back down during a round of TV interviews this morning. Hy het aan Sky News gesê’ Sophy Ridge that workers were being ‘robbed of wages’ due to soaring inflation rates and demanded inflation linked pay-rises of at least 7 persent, and a protection of the 35-hour working week for rail workers.
But in a move that will further concern ministers he did not rule rail strikes beyond this month’s planned action. And he warned other sectors could follow in his union’s footsteps by calling their own industrial action.
Mr Lynch told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: ‘I think there are going to be many unions balloting across the country, because people can’t take it anymore.
‘We have got people who doing full time jobs who are having to take state benefits and use food banks. That is a national disgrace.’
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch claimed public sector workers were being ‘robbed of wages’ due to soaring inflation rates
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused the RMT leader of ‘gunning’ for strike action throughout negotiations
However Mr Lynch insisted the RMT did not ‘want to be the cause of disruption in people’s lives’.
Hy het gesê: ‘We want a settlement to this dispute. But we’re facing a crisis for our members. We’re faced with thousands of job cuts – despite what Grant Shapps says – there’s no guarantee these redundancies won’t be compulsory.
‘We’ve seen four or five thousands jobs already go from the railway. They’ve told our maintenance staff on Network Rail that three thousand jobs will go.
‘They’re going to cut back on the safety regime, they’ve told us that every single booking office in Britain will close.
‘They’ve told us that they’re going to extend the working week from 35 hours to 40, or possibly 44.
‘And for new entrants that will mean lower wages. So they’re actually proposing pay cuts, not a pay rise, and an increase in working time on the railway.’
Mr Lynch also revealed the RMT are asking for pay for its members to ‘reflect’ die lewenskoste, at a time of soaring inflation.
‘At the time of the Network Rail pay deal, which should have been done in December, dit was 7.1 persent, the Retail Price Index,’ hy het gesê.
Asked if a a 7.1 per cent pay rise is what the RMT are demanding for rail staff, antwoord hy: ‘That’s what the cost of living would have been at the time these deals should have been struck, so we’re going to negotiate to see if we can get a deal that reflects that cost of living.
‘There a number of ways in which you can put value into a package, it’s not all about straightforward pay.
‘So we’ll talk to them constructively, but they’re making offers that are nowhere near that.
‘And for half the people in this dispute, there’s no offer at all and for many of them it’s the third year where there’s no offer and no proposal.’
The RMT general secretary insisted his union was ‘not asking for special treatment’.
‘We’ve had pay cuts – most of our members have not had a pay rise for two to three years,’ hy het bygevoeg.
‘I’m talking about actual pay cuts, the reduction of salaries, as well as the losses against the rate of inflation.’
Mr Shapps warned next week’s strike would be ‘disastrous’ for the rail industry.
He told the same programme: ‘It is a huge mistake. The unions have been gunning for this strike throughout. This strike is completely unnecessary.
‘It is going to inconvenience millions of people – students doing their GCSEs and A-levels, people trying to get to hospitals to try get operations that have been postponed, miskien, during coronavirus.
‘It is disastrous. It is no way to behave on the railway. There is no advantage to this. I know Mick Lynch says he is ‘nostalgic for union power’ but this is no way to behave.’
The Transport Secretary also dismissed calls from the RMT for the Government to step in to resolve the rail dispute as a ‘stunt’.
‘The trade unions know that only the trade union and the employer can settle this,’ hy het gesê.
‘I will not cut across that. I will not undermine the employer’s works.
‘This is a stunt at the 11th hour by the union, suddenly coming forward and saying ‘We need to negotiate with the Government now’ even though this last month they told me they wouldn’t be seen dead negotiating with the Government.’
In a warning about the impact of industrial action on the future of Britain’s rail network, Mr Shapps added: 'Natuurlik, it is a reality that if we can’t get these railways modernised, if we can’t get the kind of efficiency that will mean that they can work on behalf of the travelling public, then of course it is jeopardising the future of the railway itself.
‘I think it is a huge act of self-harm to go on strike at the moment. I don’t believe the workers are anywhere as militant as their unions who are leading them up the garden path. They are gunning for this strike. It is completely unnecessary.’