The threat of a ‘general strike’ over pay and working conditions is growing more likely, as unions representing teaching and outsourced cleaning and security staff prepare to ballot members amid the rising cost of living.
The warning comes as rail companies had the biggest walkout in 30 years last week.
The rail network ground to a standstill in this last week.
Network Rail has reportedly offered a 3% rise for one year, but Mick Lynch, general secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), told The Times newspaper he wanted a pay rise of more than 7%.
Lynch said the RMT’s campaign would continue until rail bosses met members’ demands.
He said he would support a general strike – the first since 1926 – if workers from other industries wanted to take action.
He told Sky News: “I think there are going to be many unions that are balloting across the country because people can’t take it anymore. We’ve got people doing full-time jobs who are having to take state benefits and use food banks. That is a national disgrace.”
Strikes over pay
Real wages, adjusted for inflation, have fallen 2.2% in a year.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union chief, Mick Lynch, called for a general strike in retaliation to ministers’ threats to curb industrial action, warning of “the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement”.
Truss and her rival Tory leadership candidate, Rishi Sunak, have said they will ban strikes on essential public services like the railways, and Truss has said she would legislate for minimum service levels on critical national infrastructure in the first 30 days of government.
“It is completely wrong that the travelling public are being held ransom by militant unions,” Truss said last Tuesday. “I will take a tough line on trade union action that is not helping people get on in life.”
Responding to the comments, Lynch said: “The proposals by Liz Truss amount to the biggest attack on trade union and civil rights since labour unions were legalised in 1871. Truss is proposing to make effective trade unionism illegal in Britain and to rob working people of a key democratic right.
“If these proposals become law, there will be the biggest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivalling the general strike of 1926, the suffragettes and Chartism.”
Asked if it would call a general strike, the TUC stressed “every strike is a democratic process”, but said: “It’s clear this Conservative government is not on the side of working people.”
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity union said:
“2022 is shaping up to be a year of major upheaval. Around the world, people are fed up with their governments and are demanding change.
In response, many governments have turned to more draconian measures.
The UK government is considering proposals that would ban strikes by essential public sector workers, such as police officers, teachers, and healthcare workers.
The rationale for the proposed ban is that strikes by these workers can cause significant disruption to vital services. However, trade unions have criticized the proposal, arguing that it would deprive workers of their right to take industrial action. it’s sure to be a bumpy ride with unions rightly standing up for the rights of their members. Tory proposals may well lead to calls for a General Strike gaining support. The Tories are relying on a lack of response from union leaders. They may be mistaken.“