Unions have been warned they are making a “huge mistake” by opting for a strike next week that threatens to shut down the country.
The RMT union confirmed strikes will take place next week on June 21, 23 and 25 in what is being described as the biggest work stoppage in a generation.
Among those who will be affected by the strikes are students taking exams and people traveling to summer events such as the Glastonbury Festival.
Unions have accused Westminster of “stoking tensions” and threatened to cut workers’ jobs and pay with plans to “modernize” the railways.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this morning accused unions of “firing on this strike throughout” as both sides blamed each other for failing to reach an agreement.
Shapps told Sky News: “It’s a huge mistake.
“The unions have been firing on this strike all along. This strike is completely unnecessary.”
With 13 workers and some 50,000 RMT union members expected to leave, next week’s action was described as “the biggest outbreak of industrial action in Britain since 1989”.
A key demand from railway workers is that their wages rise to a level that can keep up with the rise in the cost of living – although RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has denied the union is seeking an 11% increase to match the 11% inflation forecast correspond to %.
Each strike lasts 24 hours. However, train operators have warned that knock-on effects will result in an effective blockage of six days.
Shapps warned that the action “will cause inconvenience to millions of people — students taking their GCSEs and high school diplomas, people trying to get to hospitals to try to do surgeries that may have been postponed during the coronavirus.”
“It’s disastrous,” he continued.
“It’s no way to behave on the railroad. This has no benefit. I know Mick Lynch says he’s ‘nostalgic for union power’ but that’s not how you act.”
Lynch immediately hit back at the government, accusing it of presiding over and creating a “crisis” for its members.
He told Sky News: “We don’t want to be the cause of the disruption in people’s lives.
“We want a solution to this dispute, but we face a crisis for our members – we face thousands of job cuts.
“Despite what Grant Shapps says, there is no guarantee these layoffs will not be mandatory.
“We have seen that four or 5,000 jobs are already going off the rails. They have informed our maintenance staff at Network Rail that 3,000 jobs will be eliminated. They will limit the security regime. They have told us that every single booking office in the UK will be closing. They have informed us that they will increase the working week from 35 to 40 or possibly 44 hours.
“For newcomers, that means lower wages. So you are actually proposing salary cuts, not a salary increase and longer working hours at Deutsche Bahn.”
Lynch also said some train companies did not invite workers to talks or made wage offers ahead of strikes, after Shapps accused the RMT of cutting off talks to attend a union rally.
“The EVU did not make any offer at all during these talks, there are two strands of conversation.
“Network Rail has a strand that makes up about half of the people and train operators.
“The railway operators adjourned the meeting on Thursday, they didn’t invite us to any talks and they didn’t make any salary offer.
“We are aiming for a salary increase that corresponds to the cost of living.”
Meanwhile, Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow leveling secretary, urged the government “to sit down around the table… to resolve this”.
She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “I stand with the people who are building, creating and moving this country forward, whether they work on the railroad or try to use the railroad to get to work.
“A few years ago Grant Shapps called them true heroes, now he refuses to meet them. The government has not lifted a finger to participate in these talks since March.
“During the pandemic they have taken the right to negotiate back from the railway companies so they are the only ones who can solve this and yet they are not willing to do that.
The biggest problem this country has is not militant workers, but a militant government.”
https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/unions-making-a-huge-mistake-by-pressing-ahead-with-disastrous-strikes-says-grant-shapps_uk_62aed59ee4b04a61735d78c5 Unions Making A ‘Huge Mistake’ By Pressing Ahead With ‘Disastrous’ Strikes, Says Shapps