Union hits back at "attack on fundamental right to strike" as Transport Secretary refuses to tackle rail strike

Unions and MPs have reacted with anger to proposals by the Transport Secretary to crack down on strikes amid the long-running rail dispute.

By PA
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 4:45 am

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Grant Shapps set out a series of plans, including stopping co-ordinated industrial action, limiting picketing and having a cooling-off period after strikes.

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It comes as over half of British rail services ground to a halt again yesterday (Wednesday, July 27) as part of a long-running pay dispute.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Grant Shapps set out a series of plans, including stopping co-ordinated industrial action. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

“I’m looking at banning strikes by different unions in the same workplace within a set period. We should also place an absolute limit of six pickets at points of critical national infrastructure, irrespective of the number of unions involved, and outlaw intimidatory language,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“Ballot papers should also set out clearly the specific reason for industrial action and the form of action to be taken. In addition, before strike dates are announced, employers should have the right to respond to the issue cited on the ballot paper.”

Despite only about one in five trains running, with some lines closed and more strikes planned for Saturday and again next month, Mr Shapps said he has no intention of sitting down with the RMT.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at train companies and Network Rail will once again walk out for 24 hours next month.

“They don’t need to speak to ministers because their employers are the people who have the mandate to negotiate this, they are the people who they can resolve this with, so this is just them trying to distract attention,” the Transport Secretary told Sky News.

He added: “It’s not a question of washing my hands, it’s just that I’m not the right person to be in the room negotiating.”

Leeds MP Hilary Benn has been a host of critics to take to social media to criticise Mr Shapps.

"The Transport Secretary should meet the RMT to help resolve this dispute by agreeing a settlement that is fair to rail workers.” he tweeted.

This was echoed by Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Transport, Louise Haigh, who accused Mr Shapps of “refusing to do his job”.

"The biggest national rail strike in decades and the Transport Secretary is refusing to do his job. Unbelievable.” she tweeted.

Over 40,000 workers and 14 train operators have joined the largest strike action on the UK’s rail network since 1989.

As Mr Shapps discussed plans to limit the power of trade unions, union leaders hit back at the Transport Secretary.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:

“His intervention is just the latest in a growing list of political attacks on trade unions and the most fundamental rights held by working people."

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady added: “Grant Shapps hasn’t lifted a finger to end this rail dispute. Instead of doing his job, he has been blocking an agreement and picking fights with unions.

“These proposals are an attack on the fundamental right to strike. They are anti-democratic and anti-worker.”