Govt will try to change ‘burdensome’ law so agency staff can cover for striking workers
The government will try to change the law to allow agency staff to cover for striking workers.
Grant Shapps and Kwasi Kwarteng, the transport and business secretaries, made the announcement on Thursday as the UK is crippled by a second day of industrial action.
Under current trade union laws, firms cannot supply temporary workers to fill in duties from employees on strike.
Members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) are seeking a four per cent pay rise, to match inflation, and are striking three days this week – with more days threatened later in the year.
The government branded existing rules that prevented agency staff from covering striking workers “burdensome”, saying new laws will give employers more “flexibility”, while “mitigating” future strikes’ impact.
Trade unions, including the Trade Union Congress, criticised the proposed legislation as being anti-worker’s rights.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “This is welcome news and could help us to offer a better service to our passengers during strike days if this dispute drags on.
“While key safety-critical roles require many months of training, there are many other roles where they could be used, such as in security operations, which would make a real difference.”
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng accused the unions of “holding the country to ransom by grinding crucial public services and businesses to a halt. The situation we are in is not sustainable.”
He added that by stripping back existing laws from the 1970s it would “give businesses freedom to access fully skilled staff at speed, all while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps, who has refused to meet wit the RMT union directly, said that “despite the best efforts of militant union leaders to bring our country to a standstill, it’s clear this week’s strikes did not have the desired impact due to more people being able to work from home.”
“Reforms such as this legislation are vital and will ensure any future strikes will cause even less disruption and allow adaptable, flexible, fully skilled staff to continue working throughout.”
Criticising the move, Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work, called the move “a recipe for disaster, not just undermining pay and working conditions, but risking public safety and ripping up ministers’ own words.”
“The idea this could solve the travel chaos they have created is just more Tory fantasy in place of real solutions.”