Travel chaos: Panellist slams RMT Union over strike action
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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng alleged Unite and Unison were incentivising their members with increased strike payment rates. It comes as Britain braces for a week of near-total rail strikes that look set to cripple the nation’s transport infrastructure.
According to the Telegraph, Unite has been putting posters in local government buildings advertising their new, higher rate of £70 a day.
Unison meanwhile has now upped its rate to £50 from £25 a day, paid from the first strike day rather than the fourth, according to financial statements.
It said: “Unison must put itself and our members in the best possible position to win disputes.”
This is double what the unions could respectively offer just three years ago, and are said to be funded by massive “strike funds” Mr Kwarteng said gave them “dangerous” sway.
He said this weekend: “It’s obvious that trade union chiefs have been quietly amassing a war chest to effectively bribe workers into unleashing a summer of strike chaos.”
The business minister added: “It’s clear they’ve been plotting this for some time. Looking at the figures, this plan of theirs is designed to inflict maximum damage on millions of people for as long as possible.
“We are looking at every possible avenue to ensure public services can be maintained.”
Unison had a reserve for strike action of £34.2million as of December, according to its accounts.
Unite officials have reportedly boasted of a £35million strike fund when encouraging balloting members to support a strike.
Responding to Mr Kwarteng’s earlier remarks, a Unison spokesperson said: “This is utter nonsense.
“Last year the Government was full of praise for key workers for their pandemic efforts, now ministers are trying to start a fight with the same low-paid health, care and council staff.”
A Unite spokesperson replied: “We want to build the strength of the union to ensure that workers are not forced to pay the price of the pandemic.
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“Unite’s strike fund has grown in recent years to ensure our members have adequate financial protection if, as a last resort, they are forced to take strike action.
“The idea that this is part of some massive, co-ordinated union plot is the stuff of fantasy.”
Revelations of the engorged strike rates come just days before RMT members walk out of rail stations up and down the country over pay, job cuts and conditions.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the RMT was “punishing millions of innocent people” if the strikes went ahead.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now agreed to lift legal restrictions on companies hiring agency staff during strike action.
It is hoped that drafting in temporary agency staff will mean rail operators are able to maintain some form of reduced service.
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