Mick Lynch has hit out at ministers for having an “almost Stalinist obsession with central control”, as strike action continues to plague numerous critical sectors in the UK. Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, the union boss accused the Department for Transport of “provocations in language”. He added: “You can also see in the way they run the railway, when there is a Network Rail strike they shut Scotland and they shut large parts of Wales, and they choose to run the parts that connect to England – it’s quite cynical, in my view.”
The General Secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) also warned that talks to stop the strikes have been a “challenge”, claiming that ministers “didn’t lift the telephone or lift a finger” to stop December strikes.
Speaking at the Transport Select Committee this morning, the union boss told MPs: “There’s loads of money in the railway – it’s been made by private sector operators”.
He accused ministers of deciding to “provoke and attack the workforce”, adding: “That is a deliberate policy of the Government of this country, to lower the wages of working people right across the spectrum.”
Asked by Tory MP Greg Smith if he accepted strikes were driving people away from the railways he replied: “No, you are. Your government.”
The Select Committee saw three union bosses give evidence to MPs, with Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan giving a pessimistic account of relations between unions and the Government.
Asked to give his hopes for a deal on a scale of one to 10, Aslef general Mr Whelan said: “I think you can include zero.”
He warned: “We’re further away than when we started.”
TSSA general secretary Frank Ward threw his weight behind the verdict, saying: “I wouldn’t disagree”.
But Mr Lynch took a more moderate approach, saying: “it depends on discussions”, refusing to use a scale.
But the RMT boss warned: “The demands that are being made on us are very difficult for us to accommodate.”
Yesterday, the Government introduced new legislation to the House of Commons to crack down on unions threatening strike action.
The new law will set “minimum safety levels” for several industries, limiting their ability to take industrial action.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the Government “absolutely believes in the right to strike” but is “duty bound” to protect the lives and livelihoods of the public.
He added: “We don’t want to use this legislation but we must ensure the safety of the British public.”
But union bosses have dismissed the plans as “undemocratic” and “unworkable”.
Yesterday, head of the Trades Union Congress, Paul Nowak, said that if it became law the legislation would “prolong disputes and poison industrial relations – leading to more frequent strikes”.
He added: “This legislation would mean that when workers democratically vote to strike, they can be forced to work and sacked if they don’t comply. That’s undemocratic, unworkable, and almost certainly illegal.”
Sir Keir Starmer has said he would repeal the legislation if Labour came to power.