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RMT boss Mick Lynch endorses general strike if Liz Truss becomes Prime Minister and cracks down on unions



Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) Secretary General Mick Lynch has said he would support a general strike if Liz Truss becomes Prime Minister and brings in anti-union legislation.

Mr Lynch called for an “enormous response” from the labour movement if Ms Truss’s promised crackdown on trade unions comes into affect, and warned it would drive workers “back to Victorian times”.

The Conservative leadership hopeful has said she would introduce minimum service levels on critical national infrastructure during strikes, which goes further than the Tories 2019 election manifesto pledge that a minimum level of service should be carried out during industrial action on the railways.

Her policy could also impact strikes by teachers, postal workers and the energy sector.

Also known as a national strike, a general strike is when a substantial proportion of workers across multiple sectors refuse to go to work until their demands on pay and conditions are met.

Mr Lynch lined up alongside striking rail workers on the picket line outside Euston Station this morning on the second day industrial action by the RMT and the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) over pay and working conditions, with commuters facing widespread disruption again.

He was joined by shadow transport minister Sam Tarry, who defied orders from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for opposition MPs to attend today’s strikes.

Mr Lynch told i: “There is a whole host of measures that she [Ms Truss} is looking to bring in that will make it virtually impossible to have effective trade unionism and we think would effectively outlaw collective action.

“I think that’s a turn to the extreme right on behalf of the Conservatives, and they’re playing to their reactionary base. I think there will be an enormous response from the trade union movement.

“Only the TUC can call a general strike, we will be campaigning in that direction, but we need coordinated and synchronised industrial action against what they’re proposing.

“I would be looking for a general strike if we can bring that off, but it’s up to others. We’re a small union compared to others. So we’ll have to see where that goes.”

He added: “It’s a very dangerous situation. And I think this is a turning point, we either go back to Victorian times when we move on to a modern economy.”

What is a general strike?

Also known as a national strike, a general strike is when a substantial proportion of workers across multiple sectors refuse to go to work until their demands on pay and conditions are met.

The last general strike was in May 1926 and was held in defence of 1.2 million miners after owners of some of Britain’s biggest mines asked their employees to work longers hours for less money.

1.7 million people from sectors including transport, heavy industry, printing, fuel and dock workers joined the strike in solidarity with the miners.

The UK almost saw a general strike in 2011 when millions of public sector workers walked out over changes to pensions. State schools closed, operations were postponed and rallies were staged across the UK.

The Trades Union Congress, a federation of trade unions in England and Wales, has the power to call a general strike.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, now standing as an independent MP after having the whip removed, and ex-shadow Chancellor John McDonnell also joined today’s picket line outside Euston.

Asked if strikes by rail workers would continue over the coming months, Mr Lynch said without an “appropriate outcome” for members, the RMT campaign and mandate would continue “which includes industrial action”.

RMT’s dispute with Network Rail and train operators this year had boosted the union’s membership from 40,000 to more than 42,000, he said.

Mr Lynch said: “We can sustain this as long as our members are behind what we’re doing.

“But it’s not our ambition to just have industrial action on a long-term basis. We’re looking for a settlement and we’re looking for a resolution to the problems we’ve got on the railway.

“There’s no sign our members are pulling away from this dispute. People are joining us to take part in the action. So the signs are that it is getting stronger.”

He accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of handling the dispute “really poorly” and branded Sir Keir as “out of touch” as he described strikes by other sectors as a “summer of solidarity”.

“Keir Starmer has got to find some values that identifies with working class people struggles and the ongoing cost of living crisis,” Mr Lynch said

“At the minute it’s very difficult for any ordinary person to say Keir Starmer, believes in A, B and C. He needs to identify with working class people’s struggles.”

He denied reports the RMT had walked away from a pay deal with Network Rail that could have averted today’s strike, but confirmed the union had rejected the deal, which would see two staged increases of four per cent over the next two years.

One rail worker from Avanti West Coast who was on the picket line said employees of train operators had not yet been offered a payrise as a result of the negotiations.

The worker, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “And what has been offered to workers who have been given an offer is not acceptable.

“And it doesn’t meet the criteria that we have committed as a union to achieve for the members.

“The Conservative government and all the companies on their behalf are not willing to act. It’d be better to ask them how long this is going to go on for because they’re the ones who are prolonging this dispute.”

He questioned how Ms Truss could bring in minimum-level service during industrial disputes on Britain’s rail network, citing safety concerns.

“I don’t know whether this minimum service will be provided by agency workers, but if she thinks that’s going to be the case on the railways then I’m afraid she’s got another thing coming,” he said.

“You’ve got you’ve got signal workers, who need to do a four-year apprenticeship before they can fully qualify. It takes two years to qualify as a train driver.”

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