No10 will change strike laws 'if needed' to end union stranglehold
No 10 says it will change strike laws ‘if needed’ to end union stranglehold on Britain with strikes every day until Christmas
- Downing Street has threatened to push ahead with tough anti-strike laws
- Rail union baron Mick Lynch snubbed the latest pay offer last night
- Conservative MPs accused the RMT of trying to ‘hold the country to ransom’
- The move is set to consign millions of people to another Christmas of chaos
Downing Street today threatened to push ahead with tough anti-strike laws after rail union barons snubbed the latest pay offer last night – with a Christmas of travel chaos now almost certain.
Talks broke down after train operators made an 11th-hour bid, offering an 8 per cent pay rise over this year and next – around the same in percentage terms as the 4.5 per cent awarded to most nurses for 2022-23.
But militant RMT boss Mick Lynch rejected the offer because it is conditional on reforms such as the closure of ticket offices, in a move that is set to consign millions of Britons to yet another Christmas of disruption – the third in a row, after the chaos of the coronavirus lockdowns.
A No10 spokesman today warned it would change strike laws ‘if needed’ to smash the power of the unions plotting walkouts every day to December 25. Proposed laws include bringing in minimum-service legislation where workers are forced to ensure a certain level of services are maintained on strike days.
Furious Conservative MPs accused militant unions of trying to ‘hold the country to ransom’.
Talks broke down after train operators made an 11th-hour bid, offering an 8 per cent pay rise over this year and next – around the same in percentage terms as the 4.5 per cent awarded to most nurses for 2022-23. But militant RMT boss Mick Lynch rejected the offer because it is conditional on reforms such as the closure of ticket offices
A No10 spokesman today warned it is keeping laws that would make it harder to legally call strikes under review (pictured, MPs and union officials at a rally in Westminster)
The Met Office is the latest public body to join the mass public sector walkouts, as it prepares to go on strike.
Forecasters are set to announce their backing for industrial action this week along with health and safety inspectors, chemical weapons scientists at Porton Down and experts tackling bird flu and Covid.
The government are so far unwilling to meet the demands of £28 billion inflation-matching pay rises across the public sector.
Nadhim Zahawi, chairman of the Conservative Party, risked angering unions further yesterday when he said that nurses should accept a real-terms pay cut to ‘send a message to Putin’.
Brendan Clarke-Smith told The Telegraph: ‘People should be able to go about their business and look forward to the Christmas period with their loved ones. It’s not right that they should have their festive plans ruined by the RMT trying to hold the country to ransom. They have turned the public against them with their behaviour.’
Ex-rail minister Paul Maynard added: ‘This is a Christmas catastrophe for rail passengers. Every time the RMT turns its back on the need to modernise the railway, it hammers another nail in the network’s coffin. Passengers will simply not return the longer the RMT strikes.’
Industry sources told the paper that the RMT leadership ‘need to cancel the strikes and to put this to their members’.
Asked whether Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wanted the RMT to put the offer to its membership, the spokesman said: ‘That fundamentally is a decision for the RMT.
‘But we do think this is the right offer, it is a significant improvement on what they were offered before and we are confident it represents a good offer for their membership that provides them a significant uplift in pay and certainty they will get a further uplift the following year.’
The spokesman said the strikes could still be avoided: ‘We continue to urge the RMT to think again. There is still time.’
Mr Lynch said: ‘We have rejected this offer as it does not meet any of our criteria for securing a settlement on long-term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions.
‘If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices such as driver-only operated [trains] and would leave our railways chronically understaffed.’
However, the union will take more time to consider a new offer from Network Rail, which is also involved in the dispute.
The Government-owned agency last night tabled a 9 per cent salary increase for this year and next, up from 8 per cent, plus a 75 per cent discount on season tickets and bonuses for lower-paid workers.
If this offer is accepted, it would drastically reduce winter disruption as Network Rail employs critical workers such as signallers. The RMT is due to make a decision today.
The deadline for avoiding chaos when the first round of strikes begins next Tuesday is midnight tonight, as staff such as drivers are rostered a week ahead. The bid already rejected by RMT is the first made by train operators since national strikes began in June; Network Rail made its first offer months ago.
Rail workers, ambulance staff, firefighters, teachers, security guards, cleaners, porters and driving examiners are also planning action that will affect every day until Christmas
The deadline for avoiding chaos when the first round of strikes begins next Tuesday is midnight tonight (pictured, Royal Mail workers holding signs outside a Royal Mail depot)
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said the RMT’s rejection was ‘incredibly disappointing’, adding: ‘Passengers should receive the service they’ve paid for. This deal will help get trains running on time.’
It came as ministers confirmed they are ready to draft in up to 600 members of the Armed Forces to deal with wider winter strikes.
Nadhim Zahawi, the Tory chairman, said the Government was considering using the military to drive ambulances, fight fires and staff borders. An extra 700 staff from the specialist Surge and Rapid Response Team, as well as 700 civil servants, are being trained for this.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Zahawi sparked a backlash by urging public sector workers not to strike as that’s ‘exactly what [Russian president Vladimir] Putin wants to see’ after ‘weaponising’ energy supplies. He added: ‘This is a time to come together and to send a very clear message to Mr Putin that we’re not going to be divided in this way.’
Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesman Christine Jardine called the remarks ‘ludicrous and insulting’, and Pat Cullen, of the Royal College of Nursing, which will also strike, said: ‘Using Russia’s war in Ukraine as a justification for a real-terms pay cut for nurses in the UK is a new low for this Government.’
Rail workers, ambulance staff, firefighters, teachers, security guards, cleaners, porters and driving examiners are also planning action that will affect every day until Christmas.
The unions are fighting for sharp pay rises for members to reflect inflation, which is running at 11 per cent.
But government officials say this is unaffordable, and would cost the taxpayer more than £28billion.
The RMT threw the Christmas plans of millions into chaos this month by calling four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7 for workers on mainline rail services in England.
There will also be an overtime ban between December 18 and January 2, which could lead to hundreds of last-minute cancellations.
The TSSA rail union yesterday said its members for Network Rail and eight train operators will join the RMT in walkouts.
RMT bosses had been locked in talks with government officials, Network Rail and 14 train companies represented by the Rail Delivery Group over the weekend.
Source: Read Full Article