Train drivers are to strike over pay and more rail workers are to be balloted for industrial action in growing disputes in the industry which threaten huge travel disruption in the coming weeks.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union are set to strike on Network Rail and 13 train companies later this month, while the RMT and Unite have announced a walkout on London Underground as well.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said it will ballot hundreds of workers for industrial action at train operator Avanti West Coast in a dispute over pay, conditions and job security.
During BBC Question Time on Thursday, the shadow health secretary said he would be striking if he worked in the rail industry.
He said: “Put it this way, if I were a member of the RMT and my jobs were at risk like this, then I would be voting to go on strike and I’d be voting to defend my job’s terms and conditions.
“If I were a government minister right now, it’s not my job to be on the picket line, it’s not my job to be condemning unions, it’s my job to solve the problem, to get people round the table.”
Saying that he would “prefer they weren’t going ahead”, the Labour shadow minister added: “Why are they going on strike? To defend their pay, jobs, terms and conditions.
“That is what any of us would be doing for our own jobs, pay, terms and conditions in the current climate.”
Earlier this week, Labour said on Wednesday: “We’ve been clear in the position that the strikes shouldn’t go ahead.”
A spokesperson added: “Nobody wants to see industrial action that is disruptive.”
Strikes by the Rail, Maritime and Transport union are set to cripple rail services from June 21 to 26 in what has been billed as the largest industrial action by train staff in at least 30 years.
About 10,000 Underground workers are expected to strike in an ongoing dispute over job losses and pensions while Aslef members on Hull Trains, Greater Anglia and the Croydon Tramlink will stage a series of walkouts between June 23 and July 14.
The RMT defended the strikes.
A spokesperson said: “We don’t want to cause anyone disruption, but industrial action has to be effective if it is going to make the rail bosses sit up and come to a negotiated settlement with the RMT.
“All those affected by our proposed strike action, should direct their anger and frustration at the Government and the rail industry for failing to give railway workers a decent pay rise and proposing to cut thousands of jobs on the network.”
Meanwhile, more railway workers are to be balloted for strikes over pay and jobs which has increased the threat of a summer of travel chaos.
The TSSA said its members on CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains and West Midlands Trains will vote in the coming weeks on whether to launch campaigns of industrial action on wages, conditions and job security.
The union announced on Thursday it will ballot its members at Avanti West Coast for strikes.