Minimum service level strike laws extended to stop 'unions derailing Christmas,' Sunak says

Train drivers will stage three fresh strikes in a long-running row over pay, including on FA Cup final day.

Members of Aslef will walk out on May 12 and 31 – and when Wembley hosts Manchester City and Manchester United on June 3.

The union said it has rejected a “risible” 4% pay offer from the 16 train companies it remains in dispute with.

General secretary Mick Whelan said drivers have not had a pay rise at those companies since 2019.

He said: “Our executive committee met this morning and rejected a risible proposal we received from the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).

“The proposal – of just 4% – was clearly not designed to be accepted as inflation is still running north of 10% and our members at these companies have not had an increase for four years.

“The RDG, in turn, rejected our proposals to modernise Britain’s railways and help them run more efficiently, for passengers and for businesses, in the 21st century.

“Consequently, we have today announced three more days of strike action on Friday May 12, Wednesday May 31 and Saturday June 3 at the companies with which we are in dispute, and which are letting down passengers, and taxpayers, so badly.

“We are also withdrawing non-contractual overtime from Monday May 15 to Saturday 20 inclusive, as well as on Saturday May 13 and Thursday June 1.”
Trade unions have hit back at the move claiming that the laws are "anti-strike" and called the "crisis in our public services" of the governments own making. Credit: PA

Laws designed to provide a minimum level of cover during strikes have been extended to ambulance staff, rail workers and Border Force employees ahead of Christmas.

Ministers had launched a consultation on minimum service levels for ambulance staff and passenger rail workers after the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act became law.

“We are doing everything in our power to stop unions derailing Christmas for millions of people, prime minister Rishi Sunak said.

"This legislation will ensure more people will be able to travel to see their friends and family and get the emergency care they need. We cannot go on relying on short-term fixes – including calling on our armed forces or civil servants – to mitigate the disruption caused by strike action.

“That’s why we’re taking the right long-term decision to bring in minimum service levels, in line with other countries, to keep people safe and continue delivering the vital public services that hard-working people rely on.”

“We are doing everything in our power to stop unions derailing Christmas for millions of people, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. Credit: Frank Augstein/PA

The Strikes Act, passed earlier this year, faced fierce criticism from trade unions as unworkable and a threat to the right to strike.

It followed a wave of strike action by rail workers, teachers, health workers and others fuelled by anger at the failure of pay to keep pace with soaring inflation.

Disputes – some of which have since been resolved – also centred on deteriorating working conditions, and the strikes caused major disruption across England and Wales.

The government said minimum service levels would ensure that public services continue in the face of walkouts, calling the measures “effective and proportionate”.

The legislation to bring the move into effect it to be laid in Parliament on Tuesday, with ministers hopeful it can be completed before Christmas.

Under the rules for train operators, the government said regulations will mean the equivalent of 40% of normal timetables operating as normal.

Unused London ambulances lined up during a previous strike Credit: PA

Minimum service levels for ambulance workers will apply in England only. The legislation has been designed to ensure that emergency services “will continue throughout any strike action”.

The regulations will apply to employees of Border Force and some Passport Office staff in England, Wales and Scotland.

But unions have hit back at the move claiming that the laws are "anti-strike" and called the "crisis in our public services" of the governments own making.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak added: “Rather than engaging constructively with unions, they are attacking the right to strike, and they are punishing paramedics and rail staff for daring to stand up for decent pay and better services.

“These new laws are unworkable, undemocratic and almost certainly in breach of international law. The UK already has some of the most restrictive trade union laws in Europe.

He said that unions will keep fighting the legislation until it is repealed.

Echoing Mr Nowak, GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison said: “This is yet another blatant attempt from this government to distract from the mess they have made of public services.

“Official figures show patient safety improved during national ambulance strike days. Thanks to the planning of unions themselves, time spent waiting for an ambulance went down during strikes, not up.

“The stark truth is that public services are not able to deliver safe staffing levels on any day, not because of strikes but because of years of underfunding.

“While the government continues to scapegoat staff, it is patients and staff who will continue to pay the price for their neglect.”

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