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London’s mayor has accused the Government of “inciting” one of next week’s rail strikes, as more workers are set to be balloted for industrial action in growing disputes over pay and jobs.
Sadiq Khan claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps were “whipping up” division over a funding deal for Transport for London.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) and Unite on London Underground will strike on June 21, crippling Tube services in the capital.
The RMT is also taking strike action on Network Rail (NR) and 13 train operators on June 21, 23 and 25 which will lead to huge numbers of services being cancelled.
The Mayor said: “At the core of this is the Government… orchestrating and engineering and inciting a strike in London by attaching these conditions to the funding deal, which has got the trade unions really concerned.
“The Tories are in government and this is classic deflecting from Shapps and Johnson who are responsible for this divisive politics, for whipping up them versus us, communities versus workers.
“And now they’ve got the audacity to blame Her Majesty’s Official Opposition for these strikes when it’s the Government that’s in the cockpit.
“It’s punishing the wrong people – it’s the Government who are attaching these strings, not Londoners, not our businesses, not our key workers.”
A spokesman for 10 Downing Street said it was in the hands of the unions to call off the strikes.
“Obviously ministers remain close to the ongoing situation with regard to what are live discussions.
“But as we have made clear, we are not the employers in this case and we can’t intervene in the negotiations between rail companies and the unions.
“But what we want to see is unions get back round the table with their employer and call off the strikes next week.”
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) served notice to ballot hundreds of workers at Southeastern and Great Western Railway (GWR) for strike action and action short of strike.
Voting starts in the next few weeks and industrial action could start from the end of July.
The TSSA said it is demanding a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies, no unagreed changes to terms and conditions, and a pay increase which reflects the rising cost of living.
The union has previously announced strike ballots at several other train companies, while members of the train drivers’ union Aslef are set to strike at Greater Anglia, Hull Trains and the Croydon Tramlink in the coming weeks.
General secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “Rail workers were hailed as heroes in the pandemic and now they deserve a real terms pay rise which keeps pace with inflation, rather than shouldering the burden of the Tories’ economic meltdown.
“Our demands are simple, pay which reflects the times we live in, a deal which delivers job security, and no race to the bottom on terms and conditions.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The facts are clear: The median pay of rail workers in is £44,000, which is around 70% above the national average.
“Railway workers have seen above average salary increases over the last decade.
“The industry is offering daily talks to resolve the strikes.
“We continue to encourage the unions to take them up on that offer and negotiate a fair deal for workers.”