Train strikes: Boris Johnson brands union action ‘unnecessary’ amid second day of rail disruption – live | Rail strikes

Boris Johnson brands rail strikes ‘unnecessary’

Speaking from Rwanda, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said the rail strikes this week were “unnecessary” and stressed the benefits of “sensitive reforms” of the rail system.

I just think it is important to remember that these strikes are unnecessary. I think people should get around the table and sort it out.

This is a government that is investing more in railways than any previous government in the last 50 years.

To have a great future for rail, for railway workers and their families, we have got to have some sensible reforms and that is things like reforming ticket offices – I did a huge amount of that when I was running London.

It is stuff that maybe the union barons are more attached to perhaps than their workers. I think the strikes are a terrible idea.

Gwyn Topham

Gwyn Topham

The Guardian’s transport correspondent Gwyn Topham has spoken to unions and recruiters about their views on government moves to allow agency workers to replace striking staff.

The TUC said it was a cynical and unwork move, while rail unions dismissed it as “playing to the gallery”. Network Rail has said most of the roles which have most affected train services during the strike, particularly signaling, can not be filled by agency staff.

Matthew Taylor

Climate justice groups have joined RMT picket lines across the UK to support the rail strike and argue the government must invest in public transport to avoid the worst impacts of global heating, writes the Guardian’s environment correspondent, Matthew Taylor.

Jedidajah Otte

Jedidajah Otte

Guardian reporter Jedidajah Otte has spoken to a father of two whose daughter had to wake up at 6am to be driven to school by car to take one of her final GCSE examsinstead of making her usual train commute.

John Sheppard, 47, a project manager from Epsom, said he had nothing against the rail strikes in principle but questioned the timing of the walkouts and how they affect exams.

He said:

It was an unnecessary aggravation which schools had to plan around with no flexibility to change the dates. The exams had to go ahead. My daughter started her physics exam at 9am, which she was dreading anyway, so the disruption really didn’t help matters.

Sheppard felt more consideration could have been given to young people, who, like his two daughters, have had their education already majorly disrupted during the pandemic.

I understand why the strike is happening, my issue is the ‘when’. The potential long-term impact of how this has been set up could really affect people’s life chances. Also, if a generation of pupils associate the strikes with exam stress – it just seems counterproductive.

RMT picketers near King’s Cross station told a PA reporter they have been given homemade flapjacks and sweets from supportive members of the public.

One man admitted he had expected more of an “adverse reaction” before the rail strikes began on Tuesday.

Noting a bag of “fun-size” chocolates nearby, he said:

That was delivered by a lady who came on Tuesday, she’s actually been twice to us now.

She’s coming along saying: ‘You guys are doing a great job, well done for doing what you’re doing because it’s needed in this country – someone needs to make a stand.’

We’ve had people bringing us gifts along, things to eat, water, homemade flapjacks, foods, to make sure we’re looked after.

At the opposite end of the station, another man with a red RMT flag appeared to be conducting a protest of one.

“Solidarity, man,” said one passerby, as he laid his flag on the floor to tie his shoelace.

Boris Johnson brands rail strikes ‘unnecessary’

Speaking from Rwanda, the prime minister, Boris Johnson, said the rail strikes this week were “unnecessary” and stressed the benefits of “sensitive reforms” of the rail system.

I just think it is important to remember that these strikes are unnecessary. I think people should get around the table and sort it out.

This is a government that is investing more in railways than any previous government in the last 50 years.

To have a great future for rail, for railway workers and their families, we have got to have some sensible reforms and that is things like reforming ticket offices – I did a huge amount of that when I was running London.

It is stuff that maybe the union barons are more attached to perhaps than their workers. I think the strikes are a terrible idea.

Members of the RMT union have been pictured this morning pickingeting outside Central Station in Glasgow.

A picket line is seen outside Central Station as the second 24-hour rail strike is under way across Scotland.
A picket line is seen outside Central Station as the second 24-hour rail strike is under way across Scotland. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

More railway workers to vote on further strikes

More railway workers are to vote on strikes, threatening fresh disruption in the industry throughout the summer, it has been announced.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) served notice to ballot dozens of members at TransPennine Express (TPE), which runs trains across northern England and Scotland, for strike action and action short of a strike in a dispute over pay, conditions and job security .

PA reports:

The union is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies for 2022, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.

The ballot opens on 29 June and closes in mid-July, so the earliest that industrial action could be taken is 27 July.

The TSSA is also balloting its members in Network Rail, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, Northern, LNER, C2C and Great Western Railway (GWR) in an escalating dispute across the railway.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said: “Our members at TransPennine Express are seeking basic fair treatment in the teeth of a crippling cost-of-living crisis.

“Rail workers were hailed as heroes in the pandemic and now they deserve a real-terms pay rise which keeps pace with inflation, rather than shouldering the burden of the Tories’ economic meltdown.

“Our demands are simple – pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.

“It’s time the government changed course. Instead of making cuts across our railway, the Department for Transport should either give the signal to make us a reasonable offer, ministers should come to the negotiating table or speak to us directly.

“The alternative is a fast-approaching summer of discontent across our rail network. Make no mistake, we are preparing for all options, including a co-ordinated strike action which would bring trains to a halt.”

Jedidajah Otte

Jedidajah Otte

In North Yorkshire only a few operators are running a handful of trains today, with Selby station being among those left with no services at all.

Because of the Arriva Bus strike there are few options for people without a car, YorkMix reports.

Graham Watsonwho runs G’s Taxis in the town, said demand for taxis is “manic”.

“As an ex-bus driver with Arriva in Selby, I totally understand what the other drivers are doing strike wise and as I’ve been in the public transport sector for 23 years I totally understand what the train drivers are doing,” he said .

“What has amazed me is the amount of people that are actually stuck in limbo and tell me they don’t have cars.

“I have been totally inundated from people who are basically saying: ‘Help! We’re stranded. We’ve got no way to get to Goole, York or Leeds.’ This week has been a real eye-opener.”

Graham said coping with the demand was difficult, and that he has been working with other firms to serve customers and has made phone calls to match people with available taxis.

I’m Jedidajah Otte and covering the blog for a while for my colleague Rachel. Feel free to get in touch if you have anything to flag, I’m on Twitter @JedySays or you can email me.

Broadband provider Virgin Media O2 has said “millions more people” are working from home during this week’s rail strikes.

The spokesperson said:

Due to the nationwide strikes this week, millions more people are working from home and relying on their broadband services.

Virgin Media O2 saw a peak 5% week-on-week lift on Tuesday in its broadband upstream traffic, due to the increase in video calls on platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

The company also saw a 10% week-on-week increase in downstream traffic, with levels up around 1.5 terabits per second (Tbps) to 17.0Tbps over the day.

Road congestion levels higher in London, lower in other cities

Location technology firm TomTom has published figures showing the level of road congestion at 9am was higher than the same time last week in Londonbut was lower or relatively stable in several other cities.

  • In London, congestion levels increased from 75% on 16 June to 83% today.
  • In Glasgow, congestion levels fell from 40% to 36%.
  • In Liverpool, congestion levels fell from 49% to 47%.
  • In Manchester, congestion levels rose from 64% to 66%.

The figures reflect the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.

Allowing firms to hire agency workers ‘won’t work’, warns recruitment head

Changing the law to allow firms to hire agency workers to replace staff on strike during industrial disputes will not workthe head of the UK’s recruitment body has warned.

PA reports that Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), said changes announced by the government on Thursday were being made with no consultation with agencies and agency workers.

He said:

It is not something agencies want, and will not achieve the goals of the government claims.

This is a fundamental change to the regulations that govern recruitment businesses, and the industry is strongly opposed to it – it is not a pro-business move. We urge government to drop their plans and think again.

In practice, this change in legislation will not work. Inserting agency workers into strikes will only lengthen disputes.

It will also not provide the workers that government wants, and it puts agencies and agency workers in a very difficult position, with potential health and safety and reputational risks to consider.

Agency workers are in high demand, and most will not choose a job that forces them to cross a picket line over another where they do not have to.

Ministers pointed out that under current trade union laws, employment businesses are restricted from supplying temporary agency workers to cover for strikers, saying it can have a “disproportionate impact”.

The legislation will repeal the “burdensome” legal restrictions, giving businesses impacted by strike action the freedom to tap into the skilled services of employment businesses that can provide, temporary agency staff at short notice, said the government.

Unions and opposition parties have strongly criticized the announcement.

Joanne Galbraith-Marten, director of employment relations and legal services at the Royal College of Nursing, said:

This change would be undemocratic and unsafe.

Any industrial action by our members is very carefully planned to keep patients safe already – bringing in less qualified or agency workers instead could put patients at risk.

Health professionals face the most draconian anti-trade union laws. The government curtails their right to be heard because it knows it is failing them. Silencing health workers silences the patient voice too. Any attempts to further limit workers’ rights to challenge their unfair treatment will be strongly resisted.

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