As a result of this week’s protests, many TFL rail networks and train services will be severely delayed or closed entirely, which will also impact bus routes and other transport links. RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the strikes would continue through the summer if the dispute over wages and job losses was not resolved.
Newsnight host Kirsty Wark spoke to Mr Lynch and Tory Minister Chris Philip after the program received a Cabinet briefing on what will be discussed in Cabinet tomorrow morning.
The presenter said: ‘We’ve just had a cabinet briefing on what will be discussed tomorrow morning, and it’s not just a dispute over wages, it’s also about modernisation.
“The Prime Minister will say tomorrow in the Council of Ministers: ‘I want to be clear; we are not lowering higher passenger fares to continue paying labor practices that in some cases date back to the 19th century.”
The RMT General Secretary replied, “Well, that’s nonsense. We hear a lot of nonsense from the government today…the hype and the fantasy of the government…just making stuff up for the fun of it.
“Our members have been working fully during this, they have been working their shifts 24/7, their reward for this is having torn conditions, having their jobs threatened, thousands of jobs. “
Tory MP Chris Philip also appeared on the BBC show and defended the use of the term ’19th century’, despite saying ‘it’s true it’s the 20th century’, while Ms Wark accused the briefing paper of being “designed to be inflammatory.”
Mr Philip said: “Some of the new things we would like to introduce include the use of drones, for example, to carry out runway inspections…compulsory Sunday work dates back to 1919.
“Modernization is really important because in any industry if you want to see higher wages or even lower train tickets for the public you have to embrace modernization and when these proposals have been put to various unions , we meet constant resistance.”
He added: “I think we should keep the people of tomorrow in mind. Patients seeking treatment in hospital, pupils due to take their GCSEs, people trying to get to work who will not be able to because of this militant strike.
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The MP claimed that ‘the median salary of all railway workers is £44,000 a year’. while Mr Lynch said ‘a railway worker’s salary in this dispute is £31,000’.
Mr Philip added: “If we give everyone pay rises, two things are going to happen.
“One, ordinary taxpayers are going to foot the bill and second, what is currently, I think, a temporary spike in inflation caused by China’s Covid issues, Ukraine and so on will become permanent as wage increases will fuel more inflation.
“It’s like a dog chasing its tail. It will become permanent.
Ms Wark told Mr Lynch that her vow to continue to strike if a deal was not reached would mean ‘the lowest paid workers may suffer repeatedly’, to which Mr Lynch replied “Our workers have not been fired…their reward for this is to have their conditions torn apart, have their jobs threatened.
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It has also been reported that teachers and nurses are among other workers proposing a strike over pay rise issues.
Kirsty said: ‘Looking at the larger firmament of what’s happening in the industry right now, if others followed your example of industrial action, we’re talking about inflation-based demands, if every worker demanded 11%, inflation would be baked in and that would be bad for everyone.
Mike Lynch concluded: “Most public sector workers and many private sector workers have not had an appropriate pay rise since the election of David Cameron and George Osborne, austerity has hit labor for 12 years.
“Wages are going down year after year, we had full employment and falling wages. We have workers working full-time jobs, claiming state benefits and going to food banks.
“It’s intolerable, and we have to fix it.”