Politics

RMT union bosses announce MORE rail strikes on June 21, 23 and 25 plus another 24-hour Tube stoppage


Britons are facing more travel misery this summer as thousands of railway workers are to stage three days of strikes later this month in the biggest rail strike since 1989.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on June 21, 23 and 25.

The rail and Tube strikes, which start on the Tuesday and run until Saturday, will cause travel chaos for people going to a number of events, including concerts, test match cricket and the Glastonbury festival.

Glastonbury starts on June 22 and runs until June 26, with many festival-goers planning to travel to the site by train.

Other events that week include England playing New Zealand in a test match in Leeds, the British athletics championships in Manchester, and gigs in London’s Hyde Park by Elton John (June 24) and the Rolling Stones (June 25).

There will also be a Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London on June 24/25 and it is Armed Forces Day on June 25.

The strikes could also cause disruption for voters in the two upcoming by-elections, with both seats being decided on June 23.

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

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

Meanwhile, hundreds of check-in and ground staff employed by British Airways at Heathrow began voting on strike action today. 

Members of the Unite and GMB unions are being balloted in a dispute over pay which could cause yet more chaos at the UK’s busiest airport during the summer holiday period. 

Travellers continue to experience delays and cancelled flights at Britain’s airports, with thousands of families left stranded abroad.

Pictured: Mick Lynch, boss of the militant RMT union, which has announced a wave of rail strikes later this month

Pictured: Mick Lynch, boss of the militant RMT union, which has announced a wave of rail strikes later this month

The union said it will be the biggest strike on the railways since 1989.

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

Which train operators will be affected? 

Union members from National Rail and 13 different operators have voted to carry out strike action this month. 

Those operators are: 

  • Avanti West Coast
  • c2c
  • Chiltern Railways
  • CrossCountry
  • East Midlands Railway
  • Greater Anglia
  • GWR
  • LNER
  • Northern
  • Southeastern
  • South Western Railway
  • TransPennine Express
  • West Midlands Trains (including London Northwestern Railway)

The RMT said rail staff who worked through 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 failed to take their concerns seriously.

‘We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1 per cent and rising.

‘Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.

‘Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, while fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘This unfairness is fuelling our members anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.

‘RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.’

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

Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: ‘We continue to meet with our trades unions to discuss their pay concerns and we’re doing everything we can to avoid strike action on the railway.

‘We know that the cost of living has increased and we want to give our people a pay rise, but the RMT must recognise we are a public body and any pay increase has to be affordable for taxpayers.

‘Travel habits have changed forever and the railway must change as well. We cannot expect to take more than our fair share of public funds, and so we must modernise our industry to put it on a sound financial footing for the future. 

‘Failure to modernise will only lead to industry decline and more job losses in the long run.

‘There are two weeks until the first strike is planned. We will use this time to keep talking to our unions and, through compromise and common sense on both sides, we hope to find a solution and avoid the damage that strike action would cause all involved.’

Leicester Square station shut this morning amid the strike action organised by the RMT union

Leicester Square station shut this morning amid the strike action organised by the RMT union 

Commuters were pictured waiting to board a bus at Victoria Station in central London on Monday after strike action by 4,000 station staff closed most stations on the underground

Commuters were pictured waiting to board a bus at Victoria Station in central London on Monday after strike action by 4,000 station staff closed most stations on the underground

Rail Delivery Group Chairman Steve Montgomery said: ‘Today’s announcement is disappointing.

‘We urge the RMT’s leadership to call off needless and damaging strikes and continue to work with us to ensure a fair deal for our people and for the taxpayer while securing the long-term future of the railways.

Summer of Discontent: Fears mount over a repeat of the infamous winter of 1978 as slew of strikes set for coming months 

Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent’ in which a slew of strikes by waste workers, gravediggers and lorry drivers resulted in squalid conditions for Brits under Labour PM Jim Callaghan. 

It comes as unions have threatened a national rail strike which could see Network Rail forced to operate on a skeleton timetable to reserve tracks for the movement of goods – with passengers only having access to key services.

Civil servants have also threatened national strike action that could bring disruption to key infrastructure such as ports, courts and airports, after being offered a 2 per cent pay rise, which they deemed as insufficient amid the ongoing cost of living crisis that is currently causing inflation levels of 9 per cent. 

The head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, Manuel Cortes, threatened the biggest disruption since the General Strike of 1926. 

But it is not only the railways that are set to be massively disrupted by strikes in the coming months. Holidaymakers travelling through Heathrow this summer will have to prepare for delays and slower service, as the GMB Union is balloting for strikes to take place at the airport.

Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 'Winter of Discontent' in which a slew of strikes led to squalid living conditions across Britain

Fears are mounting of a repeat of the 1978 ‘Winter of Discontent’ in which a slew of strikes led to squalid living conditions across Britain

‘No-one wins in the event of a strike. Staff lose pay, the industry loses vital revenue making it harder to afford pay increases, and passengers and businesses are disrupted.

‘While we will keep as many services running as possible, sadly if this action goes ahead, significant disruption will be inevitable.

‘We therefore urge passengers to plan their journeys carefully and find alternative ways to travel during the strike period where possible.’

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the watchdog Transport Focus, said: ‘Passengers will be disappointed that the rail industry and the RMT have not been able to reach an agreement and strikes have been announced.

‘This means uncertainty for passengers, so it is crucial that all parties get back around the table and resolve this matter without bringing the railway to a standstill.

‘It is passengers who suffer most in the event of strikes. Passengers will need plenty of advance information about the strikes and what services will be running to allow them to plan their journeys during this uncertain time.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘It is incredibly disappointing the RMT have decided to take action that could drive passengers away from the rail network for good.

‘The pandemic has changed travel habits – with 25 per cent fewer ticket sales and the taxpayer stepping in to keep the railways running at a cost of £16 billion, equivalent to £600 per household.

‘We must act now to put the industry on a sustainable footing.

‘We are working with industry to reduce disruption caused by strike action, but unions are jumping the gun by announcing this when talks have only just begun.

‘We once again want to urge the unions to come to talks with the rail industry so we can work together to build a better, more modern, passenger-focused railway.’

The union’s resistance to modernisation has been branded ‘absurd’, with one industry source last month revealing staff were blocked from using mobile phone apps to communicate during the pandemic. Ministers believe millions could be saved through modernisation.   

The GMB union is overseeing the threat of action at Heathrow as members are voting on whether to strike in a dispute over pay which could cause yet more chaos for travelling Brits this summer.

GMB says it is taking action after a ten per cent pay cut imposed on check-in and ground staff during the pandemic has not been reinstated – despite bosses having their pre-covid pay rates reinstated.

The ballot ends on June 23. 

Nadine Houghton, its national officer, said: ‘Staff at Heathrow have been verbally and physically abused by angry passengers after British Airways’ staff shortages and IT failures nearly brought the airport to a standstill.

‘On top of that, they had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy.

‘Now they want that money back. Bosses have had it back. Heathrow ground and check in staff want to know why they haven’t had it too.

The imminent rail strike is just the latest disruption to hit travelling Britons so far this summer with tube staff also striking this week which caused widespread chaos in the capital. Pictured: The closed Victoria Underground Station on Monday

The imminent rail strike is just the latest disruption to hit travelling Britons so far this summer with tube staff also striking this week which caused widespread chaos in the capital. Pictured: The closed Victoria Underground Station on Monday

A proposed walkout at Heathrow, which union members are currently voting on this month, coincides with chaos at UK airports which has seen people left queuing for hours. Pictured: travellers queue for hours at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday

A proposed walkout at Heathrow, which union members are currently voting on this month, coincides with chaos at UK airports which has seen people left queuing for hours. Pictured: travellers queue for hours at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday

‘Unrest is now starting to spread like wildfire to other groups of BA workers with many more now considering a vote to walk out.

‘British Airways faces a gruelling summer of travel chaos if they won’t give these workers what’s rightfully theirs.’   

The move would heap more misery on British holidaymakers who are already suffering under a wave of cancelled flights that have left many stuck abroad for days unable to get home.

It comes after 4,000 London Underground staff walked out for 24 hours yesterday, leaving workers battling to get on buses and into taxis, with ride-hailing service Uber ramping up its prices. Some services were running, but the majority of stations shut.

Ministers want around £2billion shaved off the rail budget after bailing out the industry by more than £16billion during the pandemic.

TfL is cutting 600 jobs by not refilling roles when people retire or leave.

Civil servants have also threatened national strike action that could bring disruption to key infrastructure such as ports, courts and airports, after being offered a 2 per cent pay rise, which they deemed as insufficient amid the ongoing cost of living crisis that is currently causing inflation levels of 9 per cent. 

Stranded Brits told they face being stuck abroad for DAYS: Airlines warn holidaymakers hit by last-minute cancellations they face long wait to return to UK 

By Mark Duell for MailOnline 

Thousands of British holidaymakers again faced chaos again at UK airports today as easyJet cancelled nearly 50 more flights, while other families stranded in Europe were scrambling to get home after being told there were no seats available on flights for several days.

Travellers crossed borders instead of waiting as they raced to return to work and school after half-term. Some whose flights were cancelled on Saturday were told it would take until Friday for the next available seats, and so were forced to spend hundreds of pounds for new flights or other modes of transport such as Eurostar trains.

Among them were teachers needing to get back to the classroom and A-level pupils who risk missing exams after easyJet cancelled more than 300 flights across Europe in the past three days, with more than 2,000 delayed.

Families impacted including the O’Hara family from Sussex whose easyJet flight home from Fuerteventura on Saturday was cancelled – with the next available tickets on Friday. A couple from Lincolnshire also had an easyJet flight home from Montenegro cancelled on Saturday, and were told Thursday was the earliest they could get back.

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Huge queues once again this morning at Bristol Airport which has been badly hit by the airport chaos

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Huge queues once again this morning at Bristol Airport which has been badly hit by the airport chaos

It comes as travel agents are being inundated with phone calls from customers fearing their summer holidays will be disrupted, with about a third of calls at present being from those worried about bookings for July and August.

EasyJet axed 46 flights today, including 20 at Gatwick and seven at Luton. The Gatwick departures were flights to Amsterdam, Luqa, Rijeka, Copenhagen, Bastia, Nantes, Milan and Bordeaux – and the arrivals were from Gran Canaria, Pafos, Lanzarote, Kos, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rijeka, Luqa, Bastia, Nantes, Bordeaux and Milan.

Wizz Air also cancelled two arrivals at Gatwick from Tel Aviv and Faro. At Luton, there were three easyJet arrivals cancelled from Amsterdam, Lisbon and Palermo; and four departures to Bristol, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Palermo.

Bristol Airport, which has been one of the worst-hit airports, was badly affected again today with a total of 16 easyJet cancellations – including seven departures to Split, Pula, Edinburgh, Inverness, Olbia, Bilbao and Geneva; and nine arrivals from Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, Luton, Edinburgh, Pula, Split, Bucharest, Inverness and Bilbao.

In Scotland, easyJet also cancelled four flights at Edinburgh and four flights at Glasgow today – all of which were arrivals or departures to Bristol or Amsterdam. At Inverness, one departure and arrival from Bristol were axed.

While the total number of cancelled easyJet flights at airports today is 53, the actual total is 46 because seven are duplicates – ie Edinburgh to Bristol is listed twice, once as an Edinburgh departure and once as a Bristol arrival.

Some 124 British Airways flights at London Heathrow Airport were cancelled today, although the airline stressed that affected passengers were given plenty of advance notice with these services all axed a few months ago.

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Large queues at Manchester Airport this morning as the airport chaos continues to affect tourists

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Large queues at Manchester Airport this morning as the airport chaos continues to affect tourists

UK airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months due to a lack of staff after the companies let thousands of people go during the pandemic. Airlines, airports and ground handling firms are now struggling to recruit new staff and have their security checks processed amid a surge in demand since restrictions were lifted.

Among those caught up in the chaos this morning was Diego Garcia Rodriguez, 32, a Spanish national who lives in Brighton. He told how passengers were left in tears at Gatwick due to the last-minute cancellations, adding: ‘I’m flying from Gatwick to Barcelona and I was at the airport three hours before but almost didn’t make it to board.

‘The flight hasn’t been delayed so far but I have seen lots of people whose flights have been cancelled, some crying and stressing out and they only got the news after having gone through the security control so they didn’t know how to get out. There was no information and it was all very chaotic.’

Meanwhile, hundreds of check-in and ground staff employed by British Airways at Heathrow began voting today on a summer of strike action. Members of the Unite and GMB unions are being balloted in a dispute over pay.

Also today, Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, which represents independent travel agents, said that its members are receiving ‘a significant number of calls’ from concerned customers.

 



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