Teachers and binmen stoke summer of discontent fears as they join striking rail workers on the picket line – despite teaching union admitting their 12% pay demands could fuel inflation
- Fears of a general strike in Britain are mounting as binmen and teachers join Mick Lynch’s strikes today
- Boris Johnson’s Government is preparing to announce below-inflation pay deals for teachers and doctors
- The announcement is likely to trigger a wider war with the public sector and spark further walkouts
- More than 50,000 RMT members are striking today after last-ditch talks over pay collapsed
- ***Follow MailOnline’s live coverage of the biggest rail strikes in a generation HERE ***
Fears of a general strike in Britain are mounting as binmen and teachers join 50,000 rail workers in Mick Lynch’s mass walkouts today.
Unite West Midlands shared a picture on Twitter this morning of workers gathered outside Coventry station this morning waving the green flags of Lynch’s RMT union and a red National Education Union banner which read: ‘Unity is strength’.
Tweeting in solidarity with the RMT’s 50,000 striking members, the union said: ‘Workers stand together. The backbone of this country the workers of this country deserve and demand better. We support the @RMTunion #railstrike Enough is enough! #CovBinStrike workers join our rail colleagues in Coventry’.
Lynch has plunged Britain into a ‘£1billion lockdown’ this week after last-ditch talks over pay and working conditions collapsed yesterday.
Predicting a ‘wave of industrial action’ across the country, the militant RMT boss – who has admitted modelling himself on 1980s firebrand Arthur Scargill – warned that strike action could potentially last until Christmas, and even into next year if his demands are not met.
Boris Johnson’s Government is now bracing for a wider war with the public sector as it prepares to announce below-inflation pay deals for millions of teachers, NHS staff and civil servants – and potentially trigger further strikes in what ministers fear could become a ‘summer of discontent’.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, said more than 450,000 teachers were also considering strike action if they are not handed a pay rise of up to 12%. She acknowledged there was ‘a risk’ that her union’s pay demands could fuel inflation, but added: ‘The risk if you don’t pay teachers properly is greater.’
Health unions and civil servants are also considering industrial action over pay. And yesterday criminal barristers earning an average of £89,200-a-year – 200% above the national average wage – voted to strike over legal aid funding next week, in a move that will force Inner London Crown Court to close.
It comes as the Prime Minister warned commuters they must be ready to ‘stay the course’ as the country experiences the biggest rail strike in a generation.
Unite West Midlands shared a picture on Twitter this morning of workers gathered outside Coventry station this morning waving the green flags of Lynch’s RMT union and a red National Education Union banner
The picket line outside Bristol Temple Meads station in Bristol, as RMT members strike today
Striking rail staff form a picket at Nottingham Train Station today, the first day of Mick Lynch’s mass walkouts
A striking RMT member standing in front of a red RMT banner at Nottingham Train Station holding copies of the Socialist Worker today. The paper splash reads: ‘Together we can win. Strike to beat Tories. Back the rail worker’
The picket line outside Bristol Temple Meads station this morning as RMT members go on strike
RMT members at the picket line outside Manchester Piccadilly this morning on the first day of industrial action
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on a picket line outside Euston station in London this morning
Union members from National Rail and 13 different operators have voted to carry out strike action this month.
Those operators are:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Greater Anglia
- South Western Railway
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Trains (including London Northwestern Railway)
The Prime Minister last night said that public sector workers should brace themselves for a real terms pay cut to help curb inflation, warning pay awards would have to be ‘proportionate and balanced’.
This morning he told Cabinet that, without fundamental changes to the way the system operates, rail firms risk going bust and passengers face ever-higher prices that could ultimately lead to them abandoning train travel.
Mr Johnson also called for the ‘union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies’ and agree to a package of reforms.
The PM said: ‘It is right that we reward our hard-working public sector workers with a pay rise, but this needs to be proportionate and balanced. Sustained higher levels of inflation would have a far bigger impact on people’s pay packets in the long run, destroying savings and extending the difficulties we’re facing for longer.’
Treasury chief secretary Simon Clarke yesterday urged the private sector to demonstrate pay restraint as well in order to curb the ‘evils of inflation’.
With the Bank of England forecasting inflation will hit 11 per cent this year, Mr Clarke said it was ‘not a sustainable expectation that inflation can be matched in pay offers’.
He added: ‘That is not something that is going to be seen across the private sector, frankly, as well as the public sector. We cannot get into a world where we are chasing expectations in that way. That is the surest way to bake in a return to the 1970s, and that is something we are determined to prevent.’
A government source said both the PM and Rishi Sunak believed that ‘pay discipline and restraint’ were now crucial to prevent inflation triggering a wage-price spiral.
The source added: ‘We have a responsibility to tackle inflation and stop it becoming entrenched. To do this we must ensure that pay settlements are sensible and do not scramble to match inflation, and as a result drive up prices as the cost of goods and service increase to incorporate pay rises.’
TUC chief Frances O’Grady warned that strikes will spread across the country unless workers get ‘pay justice’.
She said Mr Clarke’s comments made a mockery of Boris Johnson’s pledge to build a ‘high wage economy’.
A deserted Waterloo station in London this morning on the first day of Mick Lynch’s mass walkouts
A near empty Liverpool Street station in London this morning as rail workers go on strike
Passengers walking after getting off one of the few busy trains that arrived at Waterloo Station in London today
A big queue formed at a bus stop on London Bridge this morning on the first day of Mick Lynch’s mass strikes
Passengers queue for a bus outside Waterloo Station in London this morning
Boris Johnson speaking to his Cabinet in Downing Street this morning as he faces down Lynch’s demands
Who else is set to join the summer strike contagion?
Strikes could spread across the economy in the coming months. These are the areas affected – and those which could be hit – and the unions behind the ballots.
Strikes by the RMT across three days this week will close half of the country’s rail network and reduce service to a fifth of normal levels.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is also balloting thousands of staff at Network Rail and several train companies, with the possibility of strikes as soon as July.
The train drivers’ union Aslef is set to strike at Greater Anglia and the Croydon Tramlink in the coming weeks.
Unite is also balloting about 500 British Airways check-in staff at Heathrow over a refusal to reverse a 10 per cent pandemic pay cut. If workers vote in favour, strikes are likely in July – potentially ruining some summer holidays.
Teachers’ union NAS/UWT will ballot members over action unless the Government backs demands for a 12 per cent pay rise. A pay award for 2022/23 is due in November.
The National Education Union has said it will ballot its 460,000 members if a pay rise in line with inflation is not offered by the Government.
Unison, which represents NHS staff, has said strikes are possible unless the annual pay offer for them is not close to the rate of inflation. The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has also said it will prepare for a ballot unless junior doctors are given a 22 per cent ‘restorative’ pay rise.
The Royal College of Nursing has also demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.
The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents civil service workers, will hold a ballot in September over pay, pensions and redundancies.
The Unison, GMB and Unite unions have said local government staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive a pay increase of at least £2,000 each. Workers include rubbish collectors, library staff, teaching assistants and care workers.
Unite said it will support ‘any action’ by workers to achieve a pay rise.
Barristers have voted to go on strike in a row over legal aid funding.
The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said several days of court walkouts will begin from next week.
The promised industrial action, announced on Monday following a ballot of members, comes at a time of significant backlogs across the court system.
They are the latest profession to go on strike, ahead of planned action by rail workers later this week, and reports of unrest among teaching staff and NHS employees.
The Communication Workers Union will ballot Royal Mail workers in a dispute over a pay rise offer of 2 per cent.
The union has also sent ballot papers to BT workers including engineers, contact centre staff and retail employees over pay. It could result in the first strike at the company since it was privatised in the mid-1980s.
For some commuters hit by rising fuel costs and rail strikes, it is the glimmer of a silver lining.
This month traffic wardens will start a seven-day strike in protest at pay cuts and ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.
The walkout in Wiltshire means penalty charge notices will not be issued and charges in council car parks will not be enforced, costing £30,000 in revenue.
The action by the GMB from June 30 to July 6 follows two days of strikes in the county in May.
The union is opposing a pay cut of 10 per cent, or £2,000 a year, for traffic wardens, and said members were ‘at the end of their tether’.
Wiltshire Council is seeking to save £800,000 annually by ending contractual unsocial hours payments for almost 350 staff, including social workers and care workers.
She added: ‘Working families struggling to pay their bills have earned a decent pay rise. When will we hear the government calling for restraint in the boardroom and on profits?’
Downing Street slapped down Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey last month for urging pay restraint.
But No 10 yesterday said Mr Clarke was right to try to rein in expectations about wages.
The PM’s official spokesman said that while ministers were not trying to dictate wage rates ‘clearly, the government is taking heed of the economic situation in which we find ourselves, particularly in light of inflation. And we expect private sector companies will do so as well.’
The spokesman said: ‘If inflation becomes more serious and sustained for longer than it needs to be we destroy savings, growth and living standards. And that’s what we need to be alive to.’
He added: ‘Of course, we want to see a high-wage economy. But you need to make sure that that is done in a way that doesn’t stoke inflationary pressures.’
Millions of people are suffering disruption as the largest rail strike for a generation cripples Britain’s train services.
Only a fifth of trains are running on Tuesday and half of lines are closed as 50,000 members of the RMT union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out.
Services are generally restricted to main lines, but even those are only open between 7.30am and 6.30pm. Usually busy stations such as London Euston are nearly deserted except for union picket lines.
Journey planning website National Rail Enquiries stopped working for around half an hour, but the cause of the problem is believed to be unrelated to the strike.
London Underground services are also suspended on the vast majority of lines today due to a walkout by workers.
Roads are busier than normal, with heavy traffic in city centres and on outer London sections of the M1, A4 and A40.
People trying to travel around the capital face long queues for buses.
Uber has hiked its prices amid a spike in demand, with a three-mile journey from Paddington to King’s Cross estimated to cost £27 at 8.45am.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast there will be meetings of the Cobra emergency committee on the rail strikes this week.
He said he does not meet unions, as he described calls for him to join them round the negotiating table as a ‘stunt’.
He went on: ‘I don’t typically meet with them because it’s a red herring.
‘If I thought there was a one in a million chance it would make a slightest bit of difference, of course I would do so at the drop of the hat.’
Much of Britain will have no passenger trains for the entire day, including most of Scotland and Wales, the whole of Cornwall and Dorset, and places such as Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester.
Last-ditch talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
Strikes are also planned for Thursday and Saturday.
At Birmingham New Street station, a few would-be passengers and commuters were trying to work out their travel plans, gazing at timetables on their phones and the departures board on the main concourse.
Carol Hutchinson, who is on her way back to the Lake District after coming off a six-hour flight from Egypt, landed in the UK to find her direct train from Birmingham International station cancelled.
Having made her way to New Street, she was waiting to board, with her luggage, what appeared to be one of the few trains still running.
‘I think it’s going to be standing room only… I’m not even sure I’ll get on with my suitcase,’ she said.
Plant pathology Masters student Munjabordrain Dopl was one of a handful of travellers at Newcastle Central station.
He said his research has been disrupted by the need to get an earlier train to Manchester Airport, before flying to Cameroon to attend his father’s memorial ceremony.
‘It’s really affecting me,’ he told the PA news agency.
‘In a laboratory you have to respect the schedule, and I was supposed to be in the lab now and getting the train at 1pm.
‘Because of this I’ve had to abandon my research and get an early train.’
Dozens of people joined the first train to London out of Maidenhead station in Berkshire, a popular town for commuting, at 7.40am.
But other platforms were empty, with only one train running every half hour to the capital on the Elizabeth line route.
Pupils and parents are being urged to make an alternative plan for getting to school for A-level and GCSE exams.
Lynch warned that the dispute could continue for months, adding: ‘It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4billion of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.’
The Department for Transport disputed Mr Lynch’s clams, adding that it has cost taxpayers about £600 per household to keep the railway running during the coronavirus pandemic.
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