Grant Shapps calls for an end to ‘synchronised strikes’ amid collusion between union barons
- The Transport Sec said new laws were needed to smash ‘synchronised’ strikes
- It comes after the RMT announced rail workers will walk out September 15 and 17
- Grant Shapps has already unveiled a 16-point plan including fresh strike laws
Grant Shapps today calls for a ban on collusion between union barons after the militant RMT announced fresh strikes to coincide with ones called by Aslef.
The Transport Secretary said that new laws were needed to smash ‘synchronised’ strikes which are ‘clearly the product of collusive action’ by separate unions.
Writing in today’s Daily Mail, he says judges should be dragged in to rule on cases where collusion is suspected.
It comes after the RMT announced yesterday that 40,000 workers for Network Rail and 14 train operators covering most of the country will walk out on September 15 and 17.
The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps (pictured) said that new laws were needed to smash ‘synchronised’ strikes which are ‘clearly the product of collusive action’ by separate unions
Only the day before, train drivers’ union Aslef reported a strike for September 15 across 12 operators. The move is designed to inflict maximum damage, as with both unions striking on that day barely any services will run across most of the country.
Until now, the RMT has refrained from action on the same day as other unions and the industry has managed to keep around one in five trains running on strike days.
How the unions plan months of misery
More than 40,000 RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train operators will walk out on September 15 and 17. Aslef has announced a 24-hour strike on September 15.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association will stage a 24-hour strike from noon on September 26 – the day after the Labour conference starts in Liverpool.
The Royal College of Nursing is to ballot its NHS members this month over possible strike action. The British Medical Association is also planning to ballot junior doctors, and a ballot is under way for Unite’s NHS members.
The National Education Union is to ballot its members on September 24 over strike action. Thousands of university staff are to stage a series of strikes after Unison rejected a pay offer.
Royal Mail workers in the Communication Workers Union will strike on September 8 and 9.
Workers at the Department for Business will stage a two-day strike from Monday. Waste workers represented by GMB and Unison will strike for four days from next Wednesday.
Barristers in England and Wales start an indefinite strike on Monday.
Rail travellers face four consecutive days of chaos as services on September 16 and 18 will also be affected by the knock-on impact.
Mr Shapps has already unveiled a 16-point plan including fresh laws to smash the rail unions’ ability to hold the country to ransom.
One of them is lifting the ban on ministers using emergency powers to block strikes that pose a ‘national emergency’.
But he says another is now needed, writing: ‘We need a 17th rule, one banning synchronised strike action that is clearly the product of collusive action by different unions. It would be for a court to decide if proposed industrial action meets this test.’
He added: ‘The 16 measures on curbing unjustified industrial action have been supported by both candidates in the Conservative leadership contest.
‘The right to strike is a fundamental ingredient of our liberty. But it is there as a last resort in cases of genuine grievance.
‘We cannot allow [RMT boss] Mick Lynch and his allies to once again subvert this precious freedom for political ends.’ A small fraction of services will run on September 15. It is expected to be the biggest shutdown of the railways since the early 1980s due to both Aslef and RMT striking.
Due to the shift patterns of critical workers such as signallers, services the following morning will also be hit and could drop to 70 per cent overall on September 16.
Around one in five trains will run on September 17, with services dropping to as much as 85 per cent the day after.
A third rail union, the TSSA, has called strikes on September 26. It will hit delegates trying to reach the Labour Party’s annual conference in Liverpool that week. However, TSSA staff are less critical to the running of the railways and disruption will be less severe.
All three unions are in bitter disputes with the industry over pay and job security. They are demanding inflation-linked pay rises.
The RMT has already snubbed a pay rise offer of 8 per cent over this year and next from Network Rail.
The deal involves some modernisation of working practices, which the union is resisting.
Collusion’s become a weapon to ensure maximum damage, writes Transport Secretary Grant Shapps
Many of us are too young to remember the era of beer and sandwiches at No10 –that period in the 1970s when the union barons bestrode the national stage and were regular guests in the official seat of power.
Hugh Scanlon, Joe Gormley, Jack Jones. These were household names in those days of soaring inflation and increasingly moribund industry, their influence on politics and the economy taken for granted.
Implacable foes of the Conservatives, the great unions were the puppet masters of the Labour Party, their huge donations and vast block votes wielded at party conferences, ensuring that when they spoke Labour prime ministers Harold Wilson and James Callaghan sat up and took notice.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the biggest rail union, the RMT, makes no secret of hankering after those long-gone days and the power his predecessors wielded. Britain may have been an economic basket case, but it was a union-dominated basket case.
And in the universe inhabited by Mr Lynch that is all that matters. Now, almost half a century later, Mr Lynch and others in the union movement and on the political Left spy an opportunity.
The aftershocks of the pandemic and current energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine are not creations of the Conservatives, but he intends to exploit the fear generated by soaring energy bills to stoke up social and industrial unrest and force political change.
For him, the strike is a political weapon – and for that weapon to work it must involve collusive action with other unions to ensure maximum disruption.
Grant Shapps says that Mick Lynch (pictured) intends to exploit the fear generated by soaring energy bills to stoke up social and industrial unrest and force political change
We cannot allow this to happen. I have proposed 16 measures to combat unjustified strike action, including mandatory ballots for each and every stoppage (not the six-month window for multiple strikes currently in force), raising the requirement for strike yes-votes in vital public services to 50 per cent, and extending the notice period for industrial action from two to four weeks.
But we need a 17th rule; one banning synchronised strikes that are clearly the product of collusive action by different unions. It would be for a court to decide if proposed industrial action meets this test.
The RMT is already coordinating strikes with the train drivers’ union, Aslef. Both unions will strike on September 15 and the RMT again on September 17. Knock-on effects mean rail disruption in varying degrees will stretch over numerous days. But Mr Lynch’s ambition is greater.
When voting for potential industrial action, RMT members may have thought they were engaged in a struggle for better pay. They have been offered that, but Mr Lynch has decreed that they should not be allowed to vote on accepting the offer.
That’s because, in his dreams, he wants his members to be the shock troops of a general strike stretching across all sectors of the economy. And he doesn’t even attempt to hide it.
Dusting off the socially divisive language of another age, he recently stated: ‘We refuse to wait for politicians… They act in their class interests. It’s time for us to act in our class interests.
Grant Shapps (pictured) says he has proposed 16 measures to combat unjustified strike action, including mandatory ballots for each and every stoppage
‘We are going to organise every sector of our class… Convert that into a wave of solidarity and industrial action across Britain… If we fight together, we are an unstoppable force in society.’
Mick Lynch and his allies want a divided Britain in which wage demands will be met with no regard to the destructive inflation they will inevitably stimulate and prolong.
These are truly tough times and we need to protect those most vulnerable to fuel poverty this coming winter. But does any serious person believe chronic, politically motivated industrial action is the answer?
The 16 measures on curbing unjustified industrial action have been supported by both candidates in the Conservative leadership contest. I believe this additional restriction preventing collusive strikes must be at the top of the new prime minister’s in-tray.
The right to strike is a fundamental ingredient of our liberty. But it is there as a last resort in cases of genuine grievance. We cannot allow Mick Lynch and his allies to once again subvert this precious freedom for political ends. His is a siren voice, leading us on to the rocks.
I support walkouts, says Keir
Sir Keir Starmer insisted yesterday he was a ‘proud’ trade unionist, despite telling his frontbenchers not to appear on picket lines.
The Labour leader said he ‘completely understands’ why workers were demanding pay increases, but added that it was a ‘question of roles’.
The Labour leader said he ‘completely understands’ why workers were demanding pay increases, but added that it was a ‘question of roles’
‘I want to be the Labour prime minister. I don’t think the role of the prime minister is [to] have a Cabinet meeting and then go on to a picket line,’ he told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Sir Keir was asked about Sam Tarry, who he sacked as the party’s transport spokesman for giving interviews on a rail union picket line.
The Labour leader said: ‘Nobody has been fired for going on a picket line. When it comes to those disputes, I completely understand why so many working people feel they need a wage increase. I completely understand what people are going through and I support the right to strike.’
Sir Keir added that he knew ‘what it is like’ not being able to pay bills and remembered the phone being cut off for ‘months’ during his childhood.
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