Rail strikes 2022: Ministers will change the law so firms can bring in agency workers to minimise disruption from strikes
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said ministers would change the law so firms could bring in agency workers to minimise disruption from strikes.
He told Sky News: “What we will do in the future is we’ll make sure we’ve put in some additional protections in place for the travelling public, for example through minimal service levels.
“That would mean on a day like today a certain level of service would still have to be run and through changes to allow for transferable workers, that’s a much quicker change we could take.
“For future strikes, both in this current but also for other strikes, we are going to ensure that the law is firmly on the passengers side. One of the ways is through transferable skills, or agency workers, as you call it.
“And there are a number of other technical changes we can make to union laws to make sure the public is always protected.”
He said law changes would be required through primary and secondary legislation adding industrial action on the railways is “taking us back to the bad old days of union strikes” as he vowed to “push on with these reforms anyway”.
He said: “I hear the unions say it’s about pay, it’s about job cuts, in fact there’s a pay offer on the table and the job cuts are by and large voluntary.
“So it’s unnecessary, it’s taking us back to the bad old days of union strikes and they’ve walked away now from the negotiations saying they’re going to strike and calling off any chance of a resolution.
“We’re going to have to push on with these reforms anyway.”
Hundreds of stations have been deserted as rail strikes bring much of the network to a standstill across the UK.
Last-ditch talks failed to resolve the bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, with all sides blaming each other for the lack of progress.
Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out.
Gordon Martin, RMT regional organiser for Scotland, said the strike is the last resort for members and said they were looking for a “meaningful offer” to resolve the dispute.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “This is not the first option, this is the last resort for our members.”
Several Labour MPs have joined RMT pickets to show their support for rail workers taking strike action on Tuesday morning.
Ian Lavery, the MP for Wansbeck and former chair of the Labour Party, joined a picket in Morpeth, tweeting: “Solidarity with the @RMTunion today and all days.”
Beth Winter, the Labour MP for Cynon Valley, tweeted: “Complete solidarity with striking @RMTunion members today.
“The Trades Unions are the organised working class… the workers united will never be defeated.”
Tahir Ali, the MP for Birmingham Hall Green, said he would be joining pickets later on Tuesday and posted: “Solidarity to all those who are out taking action to protect jobs, ensure safety, and win better pay and conditions.”