Grant Shapps warns union leaders over ‘hugely damaging’ national rail strikes this summer

Rail unions threaten ‘summer of discontent’ unless they get 10 PER CENT pay rises: Ministers warn mass strikes would be a betrayal of families who pitched in £ 600 EACH to save industry during Covid

  • Grant Shapps warns unions over plans for widespread rail strikes this summer
  • The Transport Secretary says it will sit ‘very badly’ with the British public
  • There are fears of a ‘summer of discontent’ on the UK’s railways from next month

Rail unions today stepped up warnings over a ‘summer of discontent’ unless they get eye-watering pay rises.

Union barons demanded the government offers wage increases ‘very soon’ that ‘at least match inflation’ to avoid a wave of strikes.

They are insisting that hikes must be pegged to the RPI rate – which was running at 9.9 per cent in March and is expected to go even higher.

The clashes escalated as Grant Shapps said plans for widespread rail strikes will sit ‘very badly’ with taxpayers who forked out to save the industry during Covid.

The Transport Secretary questioned why union leaders were pushing ‘hugely damaging’ and ‘self-defeating’ industrial action at a time when railways are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union (RMT) are currently balloting more than 40,000 members working across 15 train operators over a possible national rail strike.

The action, over pay, jobs and conditions, could begin as early as next month and would potentially be the ‘biggest rail strike in modern history’, according to the union.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) are also mulling a nationwide rail strike, while Unite has floated strike action among its rail workers – including on the London Underground.

Boris Johnson (right), Grant Shapps (center) and Sadiq Khan (left) took a ride on the Elizabeth Line today to mark its completion - but there are fears services will be disrupted by strikes this summer

Boris Johnson (right), Grant Shapps (center) and Sadiq Khan (left) took a ride on the Elizabeth Line today to mark its completion – but there are fears services will be disrupted by strikes this summer

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has urged his union's members to vote in favor of strike action

Manuel Cortes

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has urged his union’s members to vote in favor of strike action

There is a prospect of Britons being subject to a 'summer of discontent' as widespread strikes cause misery on the rail network

There is a prospect of Britons being subject to a ‘summer of discontent’ as widespread strikes cause misery on the rail network

TSSA chief Manuel Cortes seized on, said:

“Last week our union’s annual delegate conference made it clear we will not sit idly by as the Tories cost of living crisis hits our members in their pockets.

“Many of our members have not seen a pay increase for two years and with prices rocketing enough is enough.

“If the Department for Transport, Train Operating Companies and Network Rail don’t come forward very soon with proposed pay increases, which at least match inflation, a summer of discontent is on the way across our railways.”

Mr Shapps said strikes were the ‘last thing the country needs’ as the UK continues its recovery from the Coronavirus crisis.

‘We’ve supported a network that was carrying nobody,’ the Cabinet minister told The Timesas he pointed to the £ 16bn emergency bailout handed to railways during Covid.

‘Taxpayers have generously supported it, pitching in £ 600 a family towards saving the railway.

‘The idea that the thanks people then get is a strike will, I think, sit very badly with people.’

As well as a pay dispute, union leaders are warning of strikes in a bid to get guarantees there won’t be compulsory redundancies or ‘detrimental’ changes to working practices.

The RMT have also claimed 1,000 ticket offices across the rail network are at risk of closure.

But the Transport Secretary insisted the network ‘must update itself’.

‘I’m very confident about the prospects of the railway but why damage that now with a hugely damaging strike that is self-defeating, for a railway which must update itself ?,’ he added.

‘Travel patterns have changed, the way people buy their tickets has changed. The idea that work practices don’t change is clearly nonsense. ‘

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has urged his union’s members to vote in favor of strike action in order to ‘bust the pay-freeze, save your conditions and to ensure your job security’.

‘Train operating companies have praised our members for being key workers during the pandemic but have refused to keep staff pay in line with inflation and soaring living costs,’ he said last month.

‘As a result, thousands of railway workers have seen their living standards plummet and have run out of patience.’

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