UK Rail Strikes Could Last Until Christmas in 'Battle of Attrition', Union Warns
15:17 GMT 20.06.2022 (Updated: 15:24 GMT 28.05.2023)
Senior Conservatives were pressing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pass new laws first proposed three years ago, to limit rail workers' right to strike, with 'minimum service' rules banning a walkout by all staff.
The trade union set to lead a walkout on the UK's rail network has warned it has a "mandate" from members for six months of strikes.
After talks with Network Rail, private train operating companies and London Underground
broke down on Sunday, the Rail, Maritime and Transport
union (RMT) said its strike over pay, pensions and job cuts could go on until Christmas.
"We have a mandate for strike action for six months," a union source said. "The National Executive Committee will decide what to do next."
"They will only meet after this week and then need to give the employers two weeks’ notice," the source added, referring to requirements set under UK labor law.
Asked if rail commuters and travelers should expect a "long fight", RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch replied: "That may have to be the way that is, I hope that’s not the case, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence at the moment that it’s going to go any other way."
Network Rail in turn said it was "very unlikely these strikes will be a one-off" and was preparing for a "battle of attrition" reminiscent of the miners' strike of 1984-85 — including paying incentives to staff to cross picket lines and break the strike.
"We are looking at paying RMT signalers extra money to break the strike," a source at the infrastructure company said. "Nothing has been decided but there have been discussions about doing that."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Sunday that he had been surprised at Lynch's recent request to meet him over the dispute, pointing out that the union leader had previously acknowledged that the ministry was not his members' employer and even refusing to meet Shapps.
But Lynch told reporters of Monday that "the dead hand of this Tory government is all over this dispute."
reported that senior Conservatives were pressing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pass new laws, first discussed three years ago, to limit rail workers' right to strike with 'minimum service' rules banning a walkout by all staff.
But a government source told the newspaper that the proposed legislation was not a priority and would not be tabled until 2023 at the earliest.
France, Spain and Italy already have such laws, while in South Africa those in 'essential' roles — including in the emergency services, prisons, healthcare and public utilities — have their right to strike restricted.
In the UK only police officers and armed forces personnel are forbidden from joining a trade union