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Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves (Photo: BBC)
Labour has condemned government plans to replace striking rail workers with agency staff in a bid to stop the network grinding to a halt later this month.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is reportedly preparing to draft emergency legislation to allow the move ahead of planned industrial action later this month.
Members of the RMT are due to stage a three-day walkout on June 21, 23 and 25 in a dispute over jobs and pay.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Shapps wants to overturn a law brought in by the last Labour government banning the use of agency workers to carry out the jobs of those on strike.
Asked for her view of the proposals on Sky News’s ‘Ridge on Sunday’ programme, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said she would not feel safe travelling by rail with untrained staff carrying out essential tasks.
She said: “It just doesn’t make any sense. The way to resolve this is to get people around the table, but the idea that you can replace a skilled train signaller with an agency worker – would you feel safe going on a train knowing that there was an agency worker rather than a properly-skilled and trained-up train signaller?
“I know that I wouldn’t, so instead of this fanning the flames and increasing tensions the Government need to act like firefighters rather than arsonists and try and get some resolution to this.”
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, accused the government to trying to “pour petrol on the flames” of the dispute.
Asked about the agency worker plan, he said: “That would be an outrageous act if the government go down that road.
“We’ve already got the most restrictive anti-union legislation in the whole of western Europe. It’s already incredibly difficult for unions and workers to withdraw their labour. There are so many legal loopholes to fly through.
“If you think about what Grant Shapps is trying to do with that legislation, is to make industrial action ineffective, and I believe it’s a basic human right to be able to withdraw your labour.
“You only do it as a last resort and any attempts to bring people in to undermine disputes will not resolve the problems.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.