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Unions angry as Tories expected to announce plan to ban all-out rail strikes

The move comes ahead of 27 days of strikes during December on South Western Railway.

RMT members on West Midlands Trains were on strike on Saturday (Lynne Cameron/PA)
RMT members on West Midlands Trains were on strike on Saturday (Lynne Cameron/PA)

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

Union leaders have reacted with anger to an expected announcement that the Conservatives will attempt to curb all-out rail strikes.

The party’s manifesto on Sunday is expected to include plans to legislate for some services to run during industrial action.

The move comes ahead of 27 days of strikes during December on South Western Railway by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union in the long-running dispute over guards on trains.

RMT members on West Midlands Trains were on strike on Saturday over the same issue.

We are not surprised that Boris Johnson and his cronies want to make it even more difficult for hard working men and women to protect their jobs, pay, terms and conditions Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Banning strikes is the hallmark of the right wing junta, not a democratically elected British government.

“RMT would fight any attempt to strip our members of their basic human rights.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “The right to strike – to withdraw your labour – is a fundamental human right. We are not slaves.

“Aslef has rarely called a strike and, when we have, it has always been as a last resort and as a result of management intransigence.

“We are not, however, surprised that Boris Johnson and his cronies want to make it even more difficult for hard working men and women to protect their jobs, pay, terms and conditions.

“Johnson only acts on behalf of the boss class in Britain.“

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Conservatives want to make it harder for workers to stand up for decent services and safety at work, and to defend their jobs and pay. No one takes strike action lightly.

“Suppressing the democratic right to strike is not the way to sort out our railways.

“The best way to tackle high fares, under-investment, profiteering and poor treatment of staff is to bring rail under public control.”

It is understood that under the Conservative plans, train operators and unions would be required to sign an agreement to run a minimum number of services in the event of strikes.

The Conservatives say that since 2016, more than 160 days of strikes have taken place, or are planned, hitting 11 out of the country’s 17 rail franchises, plus London Underground.

The manifesto is believed to say a new balance is needed between rail workers’ right to strike and other workers’ right to go to work.

A Conservative government would legislate to oblige rail employers and unions to enter into minimum service agreements.

MSAs would set in advance the number and nature of staff who would remain at work during any strike. In the absence of an MSA, strike action would not be lawful.

Similar provisions exist in many European countries, including Spain, France, Italy and Belgium, say the Conservatives.

Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, said: “This is a naked attempt to stop working people taking action when their bosses are out of line. It’s a direct attack on our democracy, workers across our railways as well as the general public.

“The Tories clearly don’t have a clue about our railways – what they are proposing is mindless and would have a huge negative impact on passengers.

“Having minimum level of service agreements give a false expectation that lines are running as normal and lead to huge disappointment and anger for commuters when they are confronted with queuing up.to board jam packed trains.

“This is a nonsense of a policy doomed to fail. It amounts to little more than election bluster. When Johnson became mayor of London, he said he’d implement a no-strike policy. He was there for eight years and he never did.”

PA

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