Sussex law firm comments on planned rail strikes

LABOR LAW EXPERT says ‘Government attempts to interfere with strike actions are nothing new’ ahead of planned actions.

Members of Network Rail’s Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union and 13 rail operators will stand down on June 21, 23 and 25.

The RMT also announced another 24-hour strike on the London Underground in a separate row on jobs and pensions.

Tube workers will strike on June 21 to coincide with the first railway strike, threatening widespread travel chaos.

The union said it would be the biggest railway strike since 1989.

Simon Bellm is a partner in the employment team at law firm DMH Stallard, which has offices across Sussex, including Brighton.

He said: “Threats from the railway unions of a summer of discontent appear to have caused panic not only among commuters and the public, but also within the government.

“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps recently suggested that ministers draw up plans to legislate to provide for minimum levels of service during strikes to protect passengers, an idea that featured in the 2019 Conservative Party manifesto.

“Attempts by the government to interfere with strikes are not new.

“These attempts generally seek to balance the rights of workers to use the strike as leverage over their employer against the interests of those employers and, ultimately, their customers.

“Strict legislation relating to the holding of polls and prior notification of industrial action governs the legality of any strike.

“The protection given to workers and unions who take part in a strike action against dismissal or a legal action for compensation depends on the unions respecting these rules.

“The rules are even stricter in the case of public services.”

Union members voted overwhelmingly for action last month in growing rows over wages and job losses.

The RMT said rail staff who worked during the pandemic were facing pay freezes and hundreds of job cuts.

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations the rail industry, with the support of the Government, has not taken their concerns seriously .

“We have a cost of living crisis, and it is unacceptable that railway workers will lose their jobs or face another year of wage freezes while inflation is at 11.1% and rising.

“Our union will now embark on a sustained industrial action campaign that will shut down the rail system.

“Rail companies make at least £500million in profits a year, while fat cat railway bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This inequity fuels the anger of our members and their determination to obtain a fair settlement.

“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with railway bosses and ministers, but they will have to come up with new proposals to avoid months of disruption to our railways.”

The union said more than 50,000 rail workers would walk out on June 21, adding the action would affect the national rail network for the entire week.