London should waive its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and congestion charge during next week’s crippling national rail strikes, a government minister has urged.
Business minister Paul Scully made the plea to Mayor Sadiq Khan during a radio interview this morning, while also insisting non-essential roadworks be stopped.
Half of Britain’s rail services will shut down during the walkouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week, while those that do operate a limited service will run between 7.30am and 6.30pm only.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RMT) has demanded 11 per cent pay rises for workers and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies in response to a national drive to save more than £2bn across Britain’s railway network.
Mr Scully told LBC’s Nick Ferrari: ‘If you’re going to strike you risk other businesses, other people’s livelihoods, but also the rail system up and down the country, including in London.
‘Because we are at a point where we are trying to get people back into work and it’s fragile – any excuse to stop people travelling really does affect the fare box and the financial viability of the rail service.
‘We don’t want to risk anybody’s job so please get around the table, it’s not helping anybody.
Business minister Paul Scully made the plea to Mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured) during a radio interview this morning, while also insisting that non-essential roadworks be stopped
London’s congestion charge should be lifted during next week’s crippling national rail strikes, a business minister Paul Scully urged on LBC this morning
Mr Scully said the congestion charge should be lifted to ‘make it easier for people to go about their business’ amid the widespread strikes
Summer of rail strikes looms: Southeastern workers are given vote on mass walkout in JULY after chaos next week– as RMT baron Mick Lynch admits some staff demanding pay rises earn MORE than £54,000 a year
By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter and Matthew Lodge for MailOnline
Britain’s ‘Summer of discontent’ threatened to get even worse today as staff on one Britain’s busiest railways – serving 640,000 commuters in London and Kent each day – also threatened to walk out next month.
Rail union TSSA has served notice to ballot hundreds of workers at Southeastern for industrial action over their demands for a pay rise and a promise of no redundancies.
The ballot could see workers Southeastern, which is owned by the Department for Transport (DfT), go on strike as early as July 25 if successful.
The TSSA said its workers were ‘seeking basic fair treatment in the teeth of a crippling cost of living crisis’, but rail operators have called on unions to ‘talk, not walk’ as the dispute which is set to cause chaos this summer rumbles on.
It came as union baron Mick Lynch fumed on live TV last night as he admitted that many train drivers striking next week for a 11 per cent pay rise are already earning more than £54,000.
The RMT chief also became agitated when grilled by Piers Morgan over his own salary and perks, said to add up to £124,000-a-year.
He said: ‘I’m just a working class bloke who is leading a trade union in a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions’.
Industrial action by 40,000 members of Mr Lynch’s union will bring six days of chaos to Britain’s railways next week, with half the network shut down entirely on strike days on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Thousands of workers from other unions will also walk out cripple the Tube.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union has demanded 11 per cent pay rises for workers and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies in response to a national drive to save more than £2bn across Britain’s railway network.
Workers at Southeastern could join the strike in July if plans to walkout are approved by a ballot being held over three weeks at the end of June.
The TSSA is balloting hundreds of staff members at the Government-owned rail franchise, with station staff, control room staff, and some admin and manager roles taking part.
If its 350 members walkout it could see commuter chaos in some of the countries busiest stations, including London St Pancras, Victoria, Charing Cross, Cannon Street in London, as well as Dover Priory, Ramsgate, Ashford International, Dartford and Sevenoaks in Kent.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA, said: ‘Our members at Southeastern are seeking basic fair treatment in the teeth of a crippling cost of living crisis.
‘Rail workers were hailed as heroes in the pandemic and now they deserve a real terms pay rise which keeps pace with inflation, rather than shouldering the burden of the Tories’ economic meltdown.
‘Our demands are simple – pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.
‘It’s time the government changed course. Instead of making cuts across our railway the DfT should either give Southeastern and other companies the signal to make us a reasonable offer, or Ministers should come to the negotiating table and speak to us directly.
‘The alternative is a fast-approaching summer of discontent across our rail network. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including coordinated strike action which would bring trains to a halt.’
If it goes ahead it will cause more chaos for services that are already set to grind to a halt next week when members of the RMT union go on strike on June 21, June 23 and June 25.
‘What I would also call for though, is assuming that the rail strikes do go ahead, that in London the mayor lifts the congestion charge and stops non-essential roadworks on those strike days to make it easier for people to go about their business and get into work.’
Travel on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday will also be badly affected due to the knock-on effects of the industrial action by 40,000 members of the RMT union.
Transport for London has also ‘strongly encouraged’ people not to travel on the London Underground on Tuesday because of a 24-hour walkout by the RMT and Unite.
The AA has also called for road and parking charges to be waived across the country.
AA President Edmund King told The Daily Telegraph: ‘If there are no trains whatsoever coming into Glasgow and Edinburgh, for instance, and people have to go about their business, there could be a case for suspending parking charges for the duration of the strike.
‘Otherwise there is the danger of some areas becoming ghost towns.’
It comes after Mayor Khan accused the Government of ‘inciting’ next week’s Tube strike.
The London Mayor claimed that prime minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were ‘whipping up’ division with the Transport for London funding deal.
He said: ‘At the core of this is the Government… orchestrating and engineering and inciting a strike in London by attaching these conditions to the funding deal, which has got the trade unions really concerned.
‘The Tories are in government and this is classic deflecting from Shapps and Johnson who are responsible for this divisive politics, for whipping up them versus us, communities versus workers.
‘And now they’ve got the audacity to blame Her Majesty’s Official Opposition for these strikes when it’s the Government that’s in the cockpit.
‘It’s punishing the wrong people – it’s the Government who are attaching these strings, not Londoners, not our businesses, not our key workers.’
Meanwhile, the Health Secretary last night urged Labour to condemn rail strikes planned for next week amid warnings they will cause deaths.
Sajid Javid said the travel chaos will make it harder for frontline staff, including doctors and nurses, to get to work.
A senior NHS leader warned yesterday that the industrial action will ‘probably end up killing people’ because it will exacerbate delays for ambulances.
Mr Javid warned that the ‘biggest railway strike since the 1980s’ would ‘bring the nation to a standstill’ and ‘put patients at risk’.
In a letter to Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting, he wrote: ‘The disruption these strikes will cause will make it more difficult for doctors, nurses, carers, and other healthcare staff to get into work.
‘They will also make it harder for patients to come in to see them for much-needed treatments. Some of these patients will have had to book time off work to attend their appointments.’
Mr Javid criticised Mr Streeting for expressing sympathy for workers after he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time last week. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also refused to condemn the strikes.
Mr Streeting said he would prefer it if the strikes did not take place but he would have voted for industrial action if he were a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.
‘I would be voting to defend my job, terms and conditions,’ he said. ‘[If] you think you’re about to lose your job overnight… of course they’re fighting for their terms and conditions.’
Writing last night, Mr Javid said: ‘It is… disappointing that you have so far chosen to side with those who are causing such misery…
‘Regardless of whether we sit on the Government benches or with the Opposition, we both have a duty to put patients and NHS and social care staff first.’ Mr Javid added: ‘I know that you care about health and care in this country.
‘So please put patients first and join me in condemning the impact of these unjustified strikes which are bad for patients and bad for NHS and social care staff.’
But in a reply to the letter, Mr Streeting last night wrote: ‘You seem to have mistaken me for the Secretary of State for Transport, who is the person with the power to prevent these strikes.
‘If you and your fellow Cabinet members spent as much time doing your actual jobs as you spend on gimmicks like your letter, the strikes next week may be averted and disruption prevented.’
The Labour frontbencher added: ‘As I have said throughout, I do not want to see this strike action go ahead. You have a duty to patients and NHS staff to ensure that your government is getting round the table for urgent talks.’
There are growing concerns about how the strikes could further hamper struggling ambulance services.
A senior NHS leader, who was not identified, told the Health Service Journal yesterday: ‘Next week’s rail strikes will probably end up killing people because they’ll prevent ambulance trust staff getting to work.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured at an early childhood roundtable hosted by Kate Middleton in London, urged Labour to condemn rail strikes planned for next week amid warnings they will cause deaths
In a letter to Labour health spokesman Wes Streeting, Mr Javid wrote: ‘The disruption these strikes will cause will make it more difficult for doctors, nurses, carers, and other healthcare staff to get into work’
LONDON — This Transport for London map shows greyed-out lines for those that will be affected by disruption next Tuesday all day, and Wednesday morning. ‘Severe disruption or no service’ is expected on all Tube lines from the start of next Tuesday until at least 8am on Wednesday. Only the Croydon Tramlink and Docklands Light Railway are shown as running normally
GREAT NORTHERN, GATWICK EXPRESS, SOUTHERN AND THAMESLINK: This map from Govia Thameslink Railway shows the trains expected to operate on its network during strike action next week on June 21, 23 and 25 – a fraction of normal services
SOUTHEASTERN – Limited services set to run between London, Kent and East Sussex next week on June 21, 23 and 25
SOUTH WESTERN RAILWAY: There will be no trains beyond Southampton to Weymouth; or beyond Basingstoke to Exeter
GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY — A very limited services will run Cardiff or Plymouth to London via Bristol, Swindon and Reading
LNER: The operator says it will be running only 38 per cent of its usual trains, with the last from London to Edinburgh at 2pm
Both London Ambulance Service Trust and South Central Ambulance Service Foundation Trust have moved to the highest level of alert, meaning they are under extreme pressure.
Downing Street last night insisted the Government was not simply ‘standing by’ while the rail strikes loomed.
‘Ministers remain close to the situation,’ a No10 spokesman said. ‘Industry is offering daily talks with the unions and that’s what we want the unions to engage with and get back round the table.’
But the spokesman said: ‘The Government is not the employer in this case and it remains the fact that we can’t intervene in the negotiations.
Transport Secretary Mr Shapps said workers were carrying out an ‘act of self-harm’ by walking out, claimed union bosses were driving them to do so ‘under false pretences’ and said the strikes were ‘the last thing’ they should do.
How Britain’s rail network will grind to a halt due to multiple strikes amid ‘summer of discontent’
- June 21: RMT and Unite strike on London Underground
- June 21, 23 and 25: RMT strike on Network Rail and 13 train operators, also affecting services on June 22, 24 and 26
- June 26: Separate Aslef strike on Hull trains
- June 28-29 and July 13-14: Aslef strike on Croydon Tramlink
- July 20: When c2c, LNER and Northern workers could go on strike if TSSA members vote for action
- From July 25: When Network Rail strike action could take place if TSSA members vote for it in ballot
Speaking at a train depot in London, he warned striking was pointless because of the new era of working with home in which the railways are ‘in a battle’ with Zoom, telling workers: ‘Don’t risk striking yourselves out of a job’.
But Transport Salaried Staffs Association union boss Manuel Cortes replied: ‘Bully boy tactics will not wash with our union when the truth is our members are fighting for their jobs, pay and for a safe railway fit for the future.’
And the Unite union warned that strikes could now spread to London’s bus network amid its concerns that a consultation on proposals to cut a number of routes in the capital could lead to hundreds of job losses.
Mr Shapps said: ‘These strikes are not only a bid to derail reforms that are critical to the network’s future, and designed to inflict damage at the worst possible time, they are also an incredible act of self-harm by the union leadership. Make no mistake, unlike the past 25 years, when rising passenger demand year after year was taken for granted by the industry, today the railway is in a fight.’
But Mr Cortes responded less than two hours later, saying: ‘If this Tory government was at all serious about stopping what looks like a summer of discontent on our railways, Shapps would have been clear in his speech that they are prepared to negotiate with us and sister unions. Sadly, and perhaps predictably, what we heard from the Transport Secretary looked very much like threats and intimidation of workers instead of constructive dialogue.’
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch added: ‘The threats made by Grant Shapps today to railway workers’ livelihoods and their right to strike are disgraceful and will make RMT members even more fiercely determined to win this dispute. Instead of playing to the gallery for his own personal political ambitions, Mr Shapps needs to act like a pragmatic Transport Secretary who is willing to meet with the union and help us reach a negotiated settlement.’
However, Downing Street said there was ‘still time’ to find a resolution to what it described as an ‘entirely self-defeating strike’ but ministers would not get directly involved in the talks – and that proposed legislation to enable the use of agency workers on the railways if the industrial action persists would take ‘weeks rather than months’.