Belfast Telegraph

Trade union bosses need wake-up call on Christmas strikes impact, says Labour MP

Trade union chiefs need a "wake-up call" over the disruption a wave of Christmas strikes will cause, a leading Labour MP has warned.

Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the influential Commons financial watchdog the Public Accounts Committee, said union leaders were in danger of shooting themselves in the foot.

But Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott insisted she would not "second guess" strike decisions even though she acknowledged the industrial action would be "very disastrous" for the public.

What has been dubbed a "Christmas of discontent" sees industrial action planned by rail, postal, and airport workers.

Talks aimed at heading-off strikes by baggage handlers and other staff at 18 airports, and a walk-out by British Airways cabin crew will be held at Acas this week.

Ms Hillier said unions needed to think about the impact the strikes would have on passengers.

"I think it's absolutely right people should have the right to strike, but I think it is a very unfortunate combination for people travelling, workers, at a particularly difficult time of year.

"And I think that all trade unions, even though they are fighting for their rights, need to really think about the impact on the people they are actually there to serve, their customers, or their passengers.

"And I think that there needs to be a bit of a wake-up call about the impact on hard working people who are trying to get to work, or go on holiday.

"And I think that if they are not careful they could be shooting themselves in the foot," she told Sky News.

Ms Abbott refused to endorse the views of her colleague.

"I agree with what she is saying that it's a really unfortunate situation, but I am not going to be second guessing the leadership of trade unions.

"And we need to remember that it takes two to cause a strike. It is not just the trade union, it is also the problems and the incompetence of some management, and Southern Rail is an example of that.

"Of course we think about the public we serve, and, of course, these strikes are going to be very disastrous, if they all go ahead, for the public over Christmas time, but people do have a legal right to strike," Ms Abbott told Sky News.

A dispute between Southern Railway and train drivers has already brought a large portion of the travel network to a standstill this December.

Virgin pilots have not planned a fully fledged strike but will work strictly to contract with a removal of goodwill from December 23, their union, the PPU, said.