Transport secretary Grant Shapps has unveiled a 16-point plan in a bid to tackle ‘Luddite’ unions, as industrial action brings the UK to a standstill.
The announcement comes as 40,000 rail workers in the RMT and TSSA unions walk out on Thursday bringing much of the UK rail network to a grinding halt.
A second strike day will take place on Saturday, while Friday will also have disruption with thousands of TFL workers walking out. Network Rail has urged commuters to avoid using its services with just 20 per cent in operation nationally. It also warned days after the strike would be impacted also.
As picket lines formed at major stations, including London’s Euston this morning, Shapps’ plan accused them of striking purely “to stop reform”.
He said, writing in the Daily Mail on Thursday, many workers earn on “average £44,000 a year” and they’ve been given a pay rise offer.
“They’re not striking to save their jobs; we’ve guaranteed no compulsory redundancies. They, or their unions, are striking to stop reform: to carry on doing their jobs exactly as they did 30 years ago, in a world not just before Covid but before technological change.”
Of the 40,000 workers who have downed tools today, around half work for Network Rail while the rest work for 14 train companies across the country. They are striking citing pay, conditions and modernisation of the network.
Advocating reform, Shapps said some workers’ jobs would no longer be needed, and that “reform means inspecting the track using drones, electronic monitoring, and sensors on trains – cheaper and safer than making people walk along the live railway, and better at spotting dangerous faults”.
Other reforms including having driver-only trains and removing guards, taking staff from behind ticket office glass and on to station platforms.
Shapps also attacked resistance to modernisation, saying it is “bigger than one industry”.
“Britain, as everyone knows, has a growth and productivity problem”, and the way to improve it “reforming outdated, inefficient and wasteful working practices.”
“Margaret Thatcher knew Luddite trade unions were a barrier to that reform. She delivered prosperity by taking them on – and so will we.”
Labour’s Angela Rayner hit back at Shapps’ column, calling them “desperate and destructive plans from a failed transport secretary who is due to be put out of service.
“Instead of doing their jobs, Tory ministers are dreaming up reckless anti-union laws that would inflame disputes, risk passenger safety, and weaken employment rights. Shapps could resolve this strike with a one-point plan: him getting around the table and doing his job.”