Rail strike will bring 'Summer of Discontent', unions vow

Rail strike will bring ‘Summer of Discontent’ and be biggest industrial action to hit Britain since General Strike of 1926, union bosses vow

  • Union bosses will to unleash hell on passengers with a slew of summer strikes 
  • RMT and TSSA have promised industrial action starting as soon as June
  • Ministers are fearing a repeat of the hellish ‘Winter of Discontent’ in 1978
  • Rail strikes could bring a ‘Summer of Discontent’ with empty shelves, economic damage and dry fuel pumps all set to be strained, industry figures have claimed.

    Union bosses are planning to unleash hell for railways as the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union ballots for strike action at train operators and Network Rail.

    With industrial action coming as soon as June 7 – and strikes already announced for the London Underground during the Queen‘s Platinum Jubilee weekend at several stations – executives are already drawing up contingency plans to reduce disruption.

    Freight trains could be given priority over passenger services to minimise fuel and food shortages – which could exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis for many, according to the Times. 

    Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent’ in which a slew of strikes by waste workers, gravediggers and lorry drivers resulted in squalid conditions for Brits under Labour PM Jim Callaghan.

    The head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), Manuel Cortes has threatened the biggest disruption since the General Strike of 1926, according to the Telegraph.

    Freight trains could be given priority over passenger services to minimise fuel and food shortages - which could exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis for many, according to the Times

    Freight trains could be given priority over passenger services to minimise fuel and food shortages – which could exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis for many, according to the Times

    Union bosses are planning to unleash hell for railways as the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union ballots for strike action

    Union bosses are planning to unleash hell for railways as the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union ballots for strike action

    RMT boss Mick Lynch

    TSSA boss Manuel Cortes

    Union bosses are attempting to secure massive pay rises despite reduced capacities post-pandemic meaning cuts need to be made

    Network Rail could be forced to operate on a skeleton timetable to reserve tracks for the movement of goods – with passengers only having access to key services.

    With a shortage in lorry drivers persisting, a switch to road haulage is not expected to be able to alleviate a freight crisis.

    Any disruption to freight could also damage fuel deliveries, potentially risking a repeat of the 1973-74 Miners’ Strike under Conservative PM Ted Heath which led to commercial electricity consumption restricted to a Three Day Week.

    Grant Shapps will reportedly meet the Prime Minister this week to draw up Government plans to mitigate the damage done by the unions.

    Disruption to the freight supply chain could lead to empty shelves in supermarkets in the UK

    Disruption to the freight supply chain could lead to empty shelves in supermarkets in the UK

    Strikes have already been announced for the London Underground during the Queen's Platinum Jubilee weekend at several stations

    Strikes have already been announced for the London Underground during the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend at several stations

    Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 'Winter of Discontent' in which a slew of strikes led to squalid living conditions across Britain

    Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent’ in which a slew of strikes led to squalid living conditions across Britain

    Rubbish piled up in the streets during the winter of 1978 winter

    The winter is credited with the downfall of the premiership of Labour's Jim Callaghan

    Rubbish piled up in the streets during the 1978 winter under the premiership of Labour’s Jim Callaghan

    The head of the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), Manuel Cortes has threatened the biggest disruption since the General Strike of 1926 (pictured)

    The head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), Manuel Cortes has threatened the biggest disruption since the General Strike of 1926 (pictured)

    A National Rail strike -particularly involving signallers – could result in a severely depleted timetable across the board and is a scenario that ministers fear.

    The row comes as Mr Shapps prepares a swathe of cuts and reforms to the British rail network.

    Demand for rail services has collapsed to only 70% of pre-Covid levels, and measures are needed to square the drop in revenue with wages and other costs.

    Thousands of jobs are expected to be scrapped with ticket offices closed, and rail pensions also to be reformed as part of the cuts.

    Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, said: ‘We believe in modernising the railways but we do not believe in sacrificing thousands of jobs, constant pay freezes or making the railways unsafe.

    ‘That is what government plans will mean for the railways if RMT and other transport unions don’t mount a comprehensive defence of the industry.’

    A DfT spokesperson said: ‘With passenger numbers down and our railways on life-support, we need to act to make them fit for the future.

    ‘We want a fair deal for staff, passengers, and taxpayers so money isn’t taken away from other essential public services like the NHS.

    ‘The unions should talk to us about the proposals before causing irreparable damage to our railways and strikes should be the last resort, not the first.’