RMT union chief Mick Lynch says he has ‘no choice’ but to stage FIVE DAYS of strikes


Sorry, not sorry from union boss holding summer to ransom: RMT attack dog Mick Lynch says he has ‘no choice’ but to stage FIVE DAYS of strikes that will cripple UK in June, wreak economic chaos AND scupper getaways and festivals for MILLIONS

  • Britons face more travel misery as thousands of railways workers voted to stage three days of strikes in June 
  • The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and 13 train operators voted to strike after talks broke down
  • The strike action will take place on June 21, 23 and 25 with a further strike planned for London Underground
  • RMT said rail staff who worked through the pandemic were facing pay freezes while bosses enjoy huge profits
  • The transport watchdog said it is ‘passengers who suffer most’ and said it is vital both parties continue talks

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The militant union chief plotting the worst rail and Tube strikes for 33 years was today accused of giving a faux apology for plans to disrupt work, school and events such as Glastonbury for millions of Britons over five days at the end of June.

Mick Lynch has dismissed anger that the nationwide industrial action will hit major events, including concerts, test match cricket and festivals, declaring: ‘There is never a good time for railway dispute. We can’t passively sit around’.

His hard-left Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) said 50,000 of its workers at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on June 21, 23 and 25, and warned that more strikes would follow if a row over pay and job cuts was not resolved.  

Mr Lynch also insisted that he didn’t want to hit the British economy, despite experts estimating each day of strikes costs the country between £10million and £50million in lost productivity and sales. 

The RMT has threatened many more strike dates in a summer of discontent if the dispute over pay and jobs isn’t resolved at a time when Britain is in the middle of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. The strikes are part of a ‘summer meltdown’ with problems at Britain’s airports, many of which are in disarray because of staff shortages. And in more bad news, the walkout by 50,000 union members means rail freight could also be hit, resulting in empty shelves and a petrol shortage.

Mr Lynch said: ‘We don’t want disruption for anyone and I apologise for that. We don’t follow the comings and goings of Glastonbury or pop concerts. There is never a good time for railway dispute. I want the economy to be sound. But we can’t passively sit around while our members become poorer and are under the threat of losing their jobs’.

He added: ‘We haven’t got a pay deal in three years while inflation is rampant. And our members have had enough’.

Talks between Network Rail (NR) and the union are expected to be held in the next few days, sources told the PA news agency.  It is understood that during opening talks the RMT was offered a minimum two per cent pay increase for workers.

The union’s negotiators were told that this could increase if they were willing to accept modernisation of working practices. Its resistance to modernisation has been branded ‘absurd’, with one senior industry source last month revealing how the union was even blocking staff from using mobile phone apps to better communicate with each other during the pandemic.

Union boss Mick Lynch was pictured enjoying his journey on the new Elizabeth Line after his RMT union voted to strike across much of the capital's underground network on Monday, causing widespread chaos in London with most zone 1 stations closed

Union boss Mick Lynch was pictured enjoying his journey on the new Elizabeth Line after his RMT union voted to strike across much of the capital’s underground network on Monday, causing widespread chaos in London with most zone 1 stations closed

The strikes, which start on the Tuesday and run until Saturday, will cause travel chaos for people going to a number of major events, including concerts, test match cricket and the Glastonbury festival. Pictured: People enjoy a past Glastonbury festival

The strikes, which start on the Tuesday and run until Saturday, will cause travel chaos for people going to a number of major events, including concerts, test match cricket and the Glastonbury festival. Pictured: People enjoy a past Glastonbury festival

NR is also drawing up contingency plans, with the strikes expected to cause disruption to services for six days, from the first walkout on Tuesday June 21 to the day after the third strike.

Fewer than one in five trains are likely to run, and only between 7am and 7pm, probably only on main lines.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid called on the unions to call off their action. He said union leaders should ‘act like adults’ and come to a ‘sensible solution’ to disputes in the rail industry.

Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘When it comes to these strikes, it is very disappointing what the unions have said, because it’s not just going to cause misery for the travellers, but it’s actually, I think, the wrong outcome for the workers as well.

‘Because anyone working in this industry, any industry for that matter, you want it to be sustainable for the long term. It’s not possible to keep giving it the same level of support it got during the pandemic.’

Put to him that the Government could legislate to ward off the strikes, he said: ‘There are of course options for the Government. And I know that my colleague, the Secretary of State for Transport, will be looking at all options.

‘But the most important thing right now would be for the union leaders to get around the table with the industry leaders and just basically act like adults and just to come to a sensible solution.’

No direct talks are planned between the union and train operators, although the RMT said it is open to ‘meaningful negotiations’ to try to resolve the dispute.

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said the organisation is ‘doing everything we can’ to avoid the strike action.

‘There are two weeks until the first strike is planned. We will use this time to keep talking to our unions and, through compromise and common sense on both sides, we hope to find a solution and avoid the damage that strike action would cause all involved,’ he said.

Which train operators will be affected? 

Union members from National Rail and 13 different operators have voted to carry out strike action this month. 

Those operators are: 

  • Avanti West Coast
  • c2c
  • Chiltern Railways
  • CrossCountry
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Greater Anglia
  • GWR
  • LNER
  • Northern
  • Southeastern
  • South Western Railway
  • TransPennine Express
  • West Midlands Trains (including London Northwestern Railway)

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Rail Delivery Group chairman Steve Montgomery said the strikes are ‘needless and damaging’.

Tory chair of the Commons Transport Commitee, Huw Merriman, called for a minimum service during strikes, like in the EU, where around a third of trains must run during industrial action.

He said: ‘The unions have fought very hard. And will not back down. But the Government committed to bringing a minimum service obligation – then it may need that legislation in place to strengthen its hand. We regard the rail as an essential service’.

Slamming the Government over the chaos at airports he said: ‘There has been a failure to understand that you can’t just flick a switch and expect the aviation industry to restart. It can take three months to get staff recruited and through vetting. You have a perfect storm of not enough staff in a job market where people are already people are worried, as well as record unemployment and 1.2million vacancies.

‘I’m afraid it was an industry that was decimated, it has bounced back to about 70 per cent but doesn’t have the staff in place. It is a lumpy picture for aviation and sadly it is the travelling public who are impacted’.

Rail freight could be hit, resulting in empty shelves and a petrol shortage. Ministers have been told that multiple-day strikes could lead to lights going out in places due to freight services being hit.

Industry insiders point to Drax power station in North Yorkshire, which can only stockpile supplies sufficient for two or three days and services millions of homes.

Tesco and Puma Energy, which supplies garage forecourts, have also raised concerns about supply lines.

Travel guru Paul Charles said: ‘It’s looking like a summer meltdown with problems on roads, railways and at airports. Someone has got to get a grip on protecting what used to be the Great British Getaway. At this rate, the whole of the summer is going to be causing real hardship because it will be too unpredictable to travel. So that’s why we need tough decisions, not dithering.’

A Government source said the RMT union’s actions were ‘utter folly’ and would ‘hugely inconvenience’ the travelling public and alienate those whose ticket purchases ‘ultimately support RMT jobs’. 

The source added: ‘The RMT appears to believe that the way you engage in meaningful negotiation is to put a gun to the head of an industry still struggling from the aftershock of the pandemic.’

It is another blow to travellers, who are already facing a summer of chaos at airports due to staff shortages and some airlines overbooking flights, and UK infrastructure as petrol prices hit £2 a litre this week. 

The strikes, which start on the Tuesday and run until Saturday, will cause travel chaos for people going to a number of major events, including concerts, test match cricket and the Glastonbury festival – which starts on June 22 and runs until June 26, with many festival-goers planning to travel to the site by train.

The strikes could also cause disruption for voters in the two upcoming by-elections, with both seats being decided on June 23, and GCSE students sitting exams this summer. 

Other events that week include England playing New Zealand in a test match in Leeds, the British athletics championships in Manchester, and gigs in London’s Hyde Park by Elton John (June 24) and the Rolling Stones (June 25).

Rail chiefs were last night scrambling to put in place contingency measures which would see freight trains prioritised over passenger services to prevent blackouts in some areas and ensure supermarket shelves and petrol forecourts remain stocked.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said railway workers had been ‘treated appallingly’ and ‘despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously’. 

Over the last decade, the median earnings for train drivers have risen 39 per cent, far above the national average of 23 per cent, or 15 per cent for nurses. Train drivers on average earn £59,000, compared with £31,000 for nurses and £41,000 for police officers. Rail workers can also retire at 62, earlier than civil servants, nurses and teachers. 

Commuters queue for busses at Liverpool Street Station as London Underground workers go on strike for 24 hours causing severe travel delays and disruption across London, June 6

Commuters queue for busses at Liverpool Street Station as London Underground workers go on strike for 24 hours causing severe travel delays and disruption across London, June 6

Commuters get off from a London Overground service at Liverpool Street station as a Tube strike disrupts the Underground lines, June 6

Commuters get off from a London Overground service at Liverpool Street station as a Tube strike disrupts the Underground lines, June 6

Tory MP Greg Smith, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘This is our first proper summer of people getting back on and enjoying great sporting, musical and cultural occasions only to find that the summer’s going to be wrecked by dinosaur action from a different era holding the country to ransom.

‘It’s time the RMT woke up, understood the damage they’re causing to people’s lives and livelihoods and got on with providing the service that the nation relies on.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described the announcement as ‘incredibly disappointing’ and urged the union to return to talks with the rail industry in a bid to prevent ‘driving passengers from the rail network for good’.

The transport watchdog said it is ‘passengers who suffer most’ and said it is vital both parties continue talks to prevent uncertainty. 

It comes as the RMT also announced another 24-hour strike on London Underground in a separate row over jobs and pensions.

Tube workers will strike for a second time this month on June 21 to coincide with the first rail strike, threatening widespread travel chaos.

Meanwhile, hundreds of check-in and ground staff employed by British Airways at Heathrow began voting on strike action yesterday. 

Members of the Unite and GMB unions are being balloted in a dispute over pay which could cause yet more chaos at the UK’s busiest airport during the summer holiday period. 

Travellers continue to experience delays and cancelled flights at Britain’s airports, with thousands of families left stranded abroad.

The union said it will be the biggest strike on the railways since 1989.

Union members voted overwhelmingly for action last month in growing rows over pay and job losses.

The union wants a guarantee that no compulsory redundancies will be made as ministers ask the industry to make £2billion in savings after being bailed out during the pandemic and passenger numbers stabilising at around 75 per cent post-pandemic.

It also wants pay rises for members in line with the RPI rate of inflation – currently 11.1 per cent.

Other events that could be disrupted by the rail strikes this year include a Hyde Park concert performed by Sir Elton John

Other events that could be disrupted by the rail strikes this year include a Hyde Park concert performed by Sir Elton John

Other include England playing New Zealand in a test match in Leeds and the British athletics championships in Manchester

Other include England playing New Zealand in a test match in Leeds and the British athletics championships in Manchester

The Rolling Stones (above) will perform in Hyde Park on June 25 but some fans may struggle to get there during the strikes

The Rolling Stones (above) will perform in Hyde Park on June 25 but some fans may struggle to get there during the strikes

Fuel hits £2 A LITRE as petrol and diesel prices reach record-high 

Fuming drivers are being forced to pay more than £2 per litre for both petrol and diesel as the war in Ukraine and supply chain issues continue to drive up wholesale costs.

The never-before-seen prices have led the RAC to declare a ‘national fuel crisis’, warning that the 200p threshold could soon become the norm for much of the country, at a time when Brits are already struggling through the cost of living crisis and a 9% inflation rate. 

Fed-up motorists took to social media to share the shocking figures quoted by their local garages. 

Among the most outrageous was a BP garage on the A1 near Sunderland, which was selling a litre of unleaded and diesel for 202.9p and 204.9p respectively.  

A Gulf petrol garage in Essex and another forecourt on the M6 in Cumbria were also selling fuel for more than £2-per-litre. 

It came as petrol prices set a new average record of 178.5p per litre yesterday morning after soaring by 0.6p in just 24 hours.

The cost of diesel also surged to an average price of 185.2p per litre. It is the largest weekly increase for both fuels since March.

Some businesses are already feeling the strain, with freight companies reporting that the cost of running one lorry is already up £20,000 on last year, leaving the haulage industry ‘in crisis.’

The RAC had already warned that ‘frightening’ petrol prices will exceed an average of 180p per litre this week in what it described as a ‘national fuel crisis’. 

The motoring body called for ‘radical government intervention’ after figures from data firm Experian Catalist showed petrol prices soared by nearly 6p per litre over the half-term school holiday.

RAC fuel spokesperson Simon Williams said: ‘The cost of filling a 55-litre family car with petrol has now topped £98 for the first time in history as a result of a litre hitting a new all-time high of 178.5p on Monday. 

‘Diesel also rose to yet another record by reaching 185.2p which takes the cost of a tank to £101.86.

‘With analysts predicting that oil will average $135 a barrel for the rest of this year drivers need to brace themselves for average fuel prices rocketing to £2 a litre which would mean a fill-up would rise to an unbelievable £110.

‘The oil price is rising due to increased demand for fuel across the world as China eases its Covid restrictions and America and Europe go into the peak summer driving season. 

‘All this combined with a weaker pound at $1.2 means wholesale fuel costs more for retailers to buy.’ 

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The RMT said rail staff who worked through the pandemic were facing pay freezes and hundreds of job cuts.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously.

‘We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1 per cent and rising.

‘Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.

‘Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, while fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘This unfairness is fuelling our members anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.

‘RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.’

Union boss Mick Lynch was pictured enjoying his journey on the new Elizabeth Line after his RMT union voted to strike across much of the capital’s underground network on Monday, causing widespread chaos in London with most zone 1 stations closed 

The June 21 strike will see 40,000 workers from Network Rail, which is in charge of infrastructure, and 13 train companies covering most of the country walkout for 24 hours.

In addition 10,000 London Underground workers will strike, also bringing most of the capital’s transport network to a grinding halt.

The 40,000 mainline workers will then strike again on June 23 and 25.

A senior rail industry source said that calling the strikes every other day that week was designed to have maximum impact.

They said: ‘It completely screws the network on the day of strikes and for most of the next days when strikes aren’t happening.

‘Three days, midnight to midnight, basically screws the entire week.’ This is because signallers and other critical workers often start 12-hour shifts at 8pm or 10pm.

But because they won’t turn up on strike days, many won’t be in place to get the railways running again the following morning on non-strike days.

The source added: ‘What it means now is that we will have to do the contingency planning for vital freight routes that we were hoping to avoid.

‘We’ll work with the freight industry over the next two weeks to identify critical routes where freight needs to be delivered and reschedule them into the timetable, prioritising freight over passenger services.’ It means even more passenger trains face being taken out of service.

Ministers have been told that multiple-day strikes could lead to lights going out in places due to freight services being hit.

Industry insiders point to Drax power station in North Yorkshire, which can only stockpile supplies sufficient for two or three days and services millions of homes.

Tesco and Puma Energy, which supplies garage forecourts, have also raised concerns about supply lines.

Network Rail chief Andrew Haines said: ‘We continue to meet with our trades unions to discuss their pay concerns and we’re doing everything we can to avoid strike action on the railway.

‘We know that the cost of living has increased and we want to give our people a pay rise, but the RMT must recognise we are a public body and any pay increase has to be affordable for taxpayers and passengers.

‘Travel habits have changed forever and the railway must change as well.

‘We cannot expect to take more than our fair share of public funds, and so we must modernise our industry to put it on a sound financial footing for the future.

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