Fury as RMT union threatens to keep wave of rail strikes into 2023

A YEAR of discontent? Fury as RMT union threatens to keep wave of rail strikes this summer going into 2023 – as British Airways staff, hospital cleaners, refuse collectors and lorry drivers also set to walk out in coming months

  • RMT plans to shut down London Tube stations after Platinum Jubilee weekend
  • But its boss has now revealed summer disruption could extend into next year
  • Comes as BA staff, refuse collectors and HGV drivers also threatening walkouts
  • Strikes at Fawley refinery also threaten supply to a sixth of UK petrol stations
  • The walkouts come as Britons face cost-of-living crisis and spiralling inflation

The RMT has threatened to extend a wave of rail strikes this summer into next year – as British Airways staff, hospital cleaners, refuse collectors and lorry drivers are also set to walk out in the coming months. 

The rail union yesterday revealed plans to shut down the majority of central London Tube stations as millions return to work after the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

The RMT will ask 4,000 station staff to walk out on Monday, June 6, in a new escalation of hostilities as they demand 10%-plus pay rises for staff and fight a proposed clampdown on industrial action.

Last week, bosses ordered strikes during the bank holiday that will hit Green Park and Euston for 24 hours on June 3. Drivers will also strike on the Central, Jubilee and Victoria lines that evening and on June 4, with no services after 9pm on each day.

Airport workers, refuse collectors, lorry drivers and hospital staff are also threatening strike action in walkouts so severe they threaten to grind the UK to a halt this summer.

It comes as Britons already having to contend with a cost-of-living crisis that has seen spiralling inflation soar to its highest level for 40 years, along with rising petrol prices and household bills.

But RMT leader Mick Lynch has warned that the mass disruption could extend into into 2023 if the dispute over pay and proposed job losses is not resolved.

Asked if the walkouts could go ahead into the winter, he told TalkTV: ‘If there’s no settlement, then it will. All disputes have to end in a settlement and we are ready to negotiate that with those employers. 

Both Green Park and Euston are expecting to see thousands of travellers throughout the Jubilee weekend, as people move around the city, and arrive from further afield. Green Park is one of the closest tube stations to the Palace, and Euston is home to the UK’s busiest inter-city railway

Commuters pictured at London Waterloo amid Tube and train strikes that caused travel chaos in 2015

The RMT has threatened to extend a wave of rail strikes this summer into next year. 

Airport workers, refuse collectors, lorry drivers and hospital staff are also threatening strike action in walkouts so severe they threaten to grind the UK to a halt this summer.

But RMT leader Mick Lynch has warned that the mass disruption could extend into into 2023 if the dispute over pay and proposed job losses is not resolved.

Asked if the walkouts could go ahead into the winter, he told TalkTV: ‘If there’s no settlement, then it will. All disputes have to end in a settlement and we are ready to negotiate that with those employers. 

‘The government’s hand is behind this. The companies are delivering government policy and like every public sector worker they want to clamp down on pay. 

‘The reason they want do that is they want to restore profit, they want to boost dividends for the private operators and that is true right across the economy in my view.’

He added: ‘We haven’t got a prescribed timetable. What we will do is put some action on, if that is what is needed, and we’d invite the companies to negotiate with us.’ 

‘The government’s hand is behind this. The companies are delivering government policy and like every public sector worker they want to clamp down on pay. 

‘The reason they want do that is they want to restore profit, they want to boost dividends for the private operators and that is true right across the economy in my view.’

He added: ‘We haven’t got a prescribed timetable. What we will do is put some action on, if that is what is needed, and we’d invite the companies to negotiate with us. 

‘We don’t want to go on strike and we don’t want to disrupt the summer. What we want is a negotiated settlement.’

It comes amid fears of power blackouts, petrol shortages and empty shelves if strike action goes ahead.

At least four in five services could be cancelled if RMT chiefs win support for summer walkouts tomorrow.

Freight trains supplying critical power plants would be severely disrupted, hitting electricity feeds to millions of homes.

The TSSA union is also involved in the dispute and is poised to ballot 20,000 members. 

Its boss, Manuel Cortes, warned earlier this month of a ‘summer of discontent’ that could be the biggest walkout since the 1926 General Strike. 

But it is not only the railways that are set to be massively disrupted by strikes in the coming months.

Holidaymakers travelling through Heathrow this summer will have to prepare for delays and slower service, as the GMB Union is balloting for strikes to take place at the airport.

A number of British Airways ground staff and check-in desk workers have voted in favour of a strike that could cause chaos for travellers. 

The workers are demanding that a ten per cent cut – imposed during the pandemic – is reinstated in their pay packets.

Mr Lynch appeared on TalkTV on Monday night and said rail strikes could extend beyond the summer and into next year

Pictured, a sign at Paddington Station in London during a RMT union strike in March this year

Fears mount over repeat of 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent as slew of strikes set for coming months 

Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent’ in which a slew of strikes by waste workers, gravediggers and lorry drivers resulted in squalid conditions for Brits under Labour PM Jim Callaghan. 

The head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, Manuel Cortes has already threatened the biggest disruption since the General Strike of 1926, according to the Telegraph.

Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent’ in which a slew of strikes led to squalid living conditions across Britain

But it is not only the railways that are set to be massively disrupted by strikes in the coming months.

Holidaymakers travelling through Heathrow this summer will have to prepare for delays and slower service, as the GMB Union is balloting for strikes to take place at the airport.

A number of British Airways ground staff and check-in desk workers have voted in favour of a strike that could cause chaos for travellers. 

The workers are demanding that a ten per cent cut – imposed during the pandemic – is reinstated in their pay packets.

Meanwhile, Unite union has said pay strikes at Exxon’s Fawley refinery, near Southampton, will escalate in June – risking petrol supply disruption at a sixth of the UK’s petrol stations.

Around 100 workers, equivalent to a third of the refinery’s contractors, took three days of strike action in April and May over a 2.5 per cent pay offer and a lack of sick pay.

But new strikes have now been scheduled for across five dates in June.

 And as UK households continue to battle with the cost-of-living crisis, thousands of field force workers at gas giant Cadent will stage a 48-hour strike next week.

Dates for the strike action are yet to be confirmed, but the GMB union has confirmed that it will ‘take place during the summer holiday period’. 

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: ‘These workers are claiming back what they had robbed from them due to BA’s callous fire and rehire during the pandemic.

‘BA forced our members into pay cuts during the pandemic, when they had little workplace power to fight back.

‘Now our members are back at work and staff shortages are hammering the company – it is their time to claim back what is theirs.’

Meanwhile, Unite union has said pay strikes at Exxon’s Fawley refinery, near Southampton, will escalate in June – risking petrol supply disruption at a sixth of the UK’s petrol stations.

Around 100 workers, equivalent to a third of the refinery’s contractors, took three days of strike action in April and May over a 2.5 per cent pay offer and a lack of sick pay.

But new strikes have now been scheduled for across five dates in June.

The same union has also confirmed that HGV drivers it represents are set to stop delivering goods to almost 500 Co-ops across the country in a bid to secure better pay.

Around 330 workers employed by GXO, the logistics giant, are set to take 40 days of strike action between this month and August – meaning in-store shortages are almost certain.

And as UK households continue to battle with the cost-of-living crisis, thousands of field force workers at gas giant Cadent will stage a 48-hour strike next week.

Around 2,000 GMB members will down tools on May 30 and May 31 as part of an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

The union has warned of potential outages in the north west, east, west Midlands, East Anglia and north London.

Refuse collectors represented by GMB have also threatened strike action that could cause major issues for the Isle of Wight Festival next month. 

The ballot, which closes on Friday, could see action begin on the island as early as June 13, with the festival scheduled to take place over the following weekend.

The workers are in dispute with their employer Amey over pay.

Potential action has extended to hospitals, too, with health workers employed by a private firm in Lancashire currently voting over whether to take strike action to win the same pay and holiday rates as NHS colleagues. 

Meanwhile, GMB members who work for Mitie as cleaners, hostesses and porters at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, have voted to go on strike for 24 hours from 7am on Tuesday.

Further strikes have been scheduled for June 6 and June 7.

Disruption to the freight supply chain could lead to empty shelves in supermarkets in the UK

The strike chaos comes as Britons are struggling to cope with spiralling inflation.

Boris Johnson is today holding a crisis Cabinet on the cost of living today as new figures showed the government tax take soaring 12 per cent year-on-year.

The Treasury raked in £50.2billion in April – £5.5billion higher than the same month last year after the national insurance hike came in. 

Official figures also revealed this morning that the cost of the £150 council tax rebate trumpeted by Rishi Sunak previously has already been clawed back from other local government spending.

Inflation has already soared to its highest level for 40 years, at 9 per cent in April, due to eye-watering increases in energy tariffs, and is forecast to reach double-figures by the end of the year before falling back.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said government borrowing, excluding state-owned banks, stood at £18.6billion last month – lower than forecast and down by £5.6billion from a year ago.

Interest payments are also expected to soar, due to rocketing levels of the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation used on Government debt payments, with June data set to show the full scale of the recent jump in inflation.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has  insisted that ‘countries around the world are dealing with rising inflation’, and he ‘stands ready’ to offer further support to Britons – while stressing that he cannot ‘protect people completely’ from pain.

Mr Johnson, flanked by civil service chief Simon Case (left) and Rishi Sunak (right) will hold a Cabinet meeting today

The first passengers on the Elizabeth line at Paddington travel down an escalator into the station at 6.20am this morning

But experts warn that ‘this is what Stagflation looks like’, as the UK economy stalls and teeters towards recession after the pandemic and Ukraine war caused chaos.

And the government is also having to contend with the RMT’s ‘unnecessary’ strike action that is threatening to cause chaos over the Platinum Jubilee weekend.

The walkout is likely to shut down the majority of stations in central London after the four-day Jubilee weekend with only a small number of stations in outer London able to open without staff. 

Andy Lord, TfL’s chief operating officer, said: ‘We are extremely disappointed that the RMT has announced unnecessary strike action on 6 June and share Londoners’ frustrations that this, and the linked action short of strike, has been designed to disrupt the Jubilee weekend. 

‘It is particularly surprising that the RMT has threatened to spoil this moment when the nation is coming together as nobody has or will lose their jobs as a result of the proposals we have set out and there have been no proposals on pension changes.

‘If the RMT chooses to go ahead with this unnecessary action, we will do everything we can to minimise any disruption and ensure everyone can still make the most of the capital throughout the Jubilee weekend.

‘The devastating impact of the pandemic on TfL finances has made a programme of change urgently necessary but this change is being delivered in a way that ensures nobody loses their jobs so we’re calling on the RMT to work with us, rather than disrupting London’s recovery and our customers, who deserve better. 

‘We’ve been in regular talks with the RMT and are hoping to find an urgent resolution to this dispute to ensure they can call off this unnecessary action.’

Grant Shapps has also said that the Government may bring in new laws to make strikes illegal unless a certain number of staff remain working to keep the UK’s railways running and London’s Underground network operational.

Mr Shapps has said that Britain’s railways are already on ‘financial life support’ after two years of lockdowns and an ongoing battle to get people back into the office. 

He said that militant union leaders must ‘wake up and smell the coffee’.

Bu Mr Lynch responded: ‘TfL is trying to bulldoze through 600 job losses on London Underground and our members are not prepared to accept that.

‘Station staff play a crucial role in serving the travelling public and were heroes during the 7/7 terrorist attacks.

‘Instead of seeking to cut jobs, TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan need to put further pressure on the government to secure increased funding for the network so we can have a properly staffed modern 21st century tube.’ 

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