Rail strikes WILL go ahead tomorrow

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Mick Lynch’s militant RMT has declared that tomorrow’s rail strikes will go ahead from midnight, in a move that condemns millions of commuters, patients and students to misery, undermines Boris Johnson’s WFH drive and delivers yet another hammerblow to Britain’s flailing economy.

The hardline union is launching the second of its three mass walkouts over pay after fresh talks with National Rail today collapsed once again.

In a tub-thumping statement, Lynch – a revolutionary firebrand inspired by Thatcher’s arch-nemesis Arthur Scargill – thundered: ‘Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.

‘Until the government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed. We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost of living crisis.’

The biggest strikes in 30 years will now force millions of people to either battle into the office or WFH again. Footfall on UK high streets today was 2% lower than yesterday, according to data from Springboard shared with MailOnline. Yesterday eerie photos showed town and city centres including central London and Birmingham completely deserted, in scenes reminiscent of the ‘darkest days of Covid’ when whole swathes of the economy were devastated by lockdown.

Lynch’s strikes have come at a dreadful time for the crippled hospitality sector, which has been struggling to get back on its feet after two years of Covid restrictions. Experts believe the mass walkouts this week will cost the sector £540million alone, as UKHospitality’s chief executive Kate Nicholls warned: ‘It’s a very fragile industry that cannot withstand this type of economic shock. For many businesses, this will push them closer towards the edge of viability.’

Today rail companies have been cancelling services and have urged commuters to stay at home tomorrow. Chiltern Railways said it has scrapped the 1.05pm Aylesbury Vale Parkway to London Marylebone, while Greater Anglia cancelled the 2.28pm Felixstowe to Ipswich. Rail company c2c shelved its 2.04pm London Fenchurch Street to Shoeburyness and warned that it would not be operating services between and 8am tomorrow due to the mass walkouts.

This morning massive crowds formed queues outside shuttered Tube stations during this morning’s rush hour because militant workers who were on strike until midnight were late to work.

And in a move likely to pile the pressure on ‘hiding’ Keir Starmer, Labour-controlled Merseyrail has announced that it had agreed a 7% pay rise with the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) – a sign that rail companies are bowing to the demands of union barons.

The Labour leader’s authority is being tested after several of his MPs defied the party whip and ‘held hands with Arthur Scargill’ on the picket line yesterday.

At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson excoriated Sir Keir’s ‘picket party’ and accused Labour of ‘backing strikers, not strivers’. He told the Commons: ‘We know why he [Sir Keir] won’t condemn the strikes, we know why even now he hasn’t got the gumption to call out his MPs for going out to support the pickets. The reason his authority is on the line in this matter is that they take £10million… that’s the fee the learned gentleman opposite is receiving for the case he is failing to make.’

It comes as Trades Union Congress general secretary Frances O’Grady accused ministers of ‘spoiling for a fight’ with workers as inflation massively outstrips pay.

As the Government braces for a standoff with the public sector that could potentially last until Christmas, it emerged today:

  • Ministers today branded the strikes as ‘unjustified’ and insisted the Government has to ‘hold the line’ against ‘fat cat’ Lynch’s militant RMT;
  • Teachers are threatening to unleash ‘class war’ by striking in the autumn if they are not given an ‘inflation plus’ pay rise. Royal Mail workers yesterday demanded ‘no strings, inflation-based’ pay increases as they prepare to vote on industrial action;
  • Labour MPs yesterday defied their leader and joined picket lines as Keir Starmer suffered a blow from the party’s hard-left;
  • At 84 years of age, Arthur Scargill is still militant – and joined a RMT picket line as unions we re accused of taking Britain back to the 1970s.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on a picket line outside St Pancras station in London yesterday

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch on a picket line outside St Pancras station in London yesterday

KINGS CROSS STATION: Passengers arrive at Kings Cross Station in London today

KINGS CROSS STATION: Passengers arrive at Kings Cross Station in London today

WATERLOO STATION: Passengers in Waterloo Station, London today ahead of tomorrow's rail strikes

WATERLOO STATION: Passengers in Waterloo Station, London today ahead of tomorrow’s rail strikes

Swathes of Tube stations failed to open at 8am as promised today as striking staff failed to return to work on time piling more misery on millions of Britons still suffering after yesterday’s strike

Swathes of Tube stations failed to open at 8am as promised today as striking staff failed to return to work on time piling more misery on millions of Britons still suffering after yesterday's strike

Swathes of Tube stations failed to open at 8am as promised today as striking staff failed to return to work on time piling more misery on millions of Britons still suffering after yesterday’s strike

STRATFORD: Chaos as passengers wait for the station to open in London, as train services continue to be disrupted following the nationwide strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union along with London Underground workers in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions

STRATFORD: Chaos as passengers wait for the station to open in London, as train services continue to be disrupted following the nationwide strike by members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union along with London Underground workers in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions

VICTORIA LINE: London commuters battle busy Tube platforms and carriages on the Victoria Line today

VICTORIA LINE: London commuters battle busy Tube platforms and carriages on the Victoria Line today

PADDINGTON: Passengers bound for Glastonbury Festival wait at Paddington Station in London today

PADDINGTON: Passengers bound for Glastonbury Festival wait at Paddington Station in London today

NORTH LONDON: Tube trains stand at Northfields Train Depot as train strikes hit services again

NORTH LONDON: Tube trains stand at Northfields Train Depot as train strikes hit services again

BIRMINGHAM: West Midlands Railway trains parked up and unused in Smethwick today

BIRMINGHAM: West Midlands Railway trains parked up and unused in Smethwick today

SURBITON: Long queues at the south-west London station this morning as Britons suffered a strike hangover

SURBITON: Long queues at the south-west London station this morning as Britons suffered a strike hangover

Traffic was as heavy as yesterday because more people had to use their cars. There were 2,046 traffic jams in the capital this morning, covering a total length of 834 miles, and a 30 minute journey was taking an average of an hour, according to TomTom

Traffic was as heavy as yesterday because more people had to use their cars. There were 2,046 traffic jams in the capital this morning, covering a total length of 834 miles, and a 30 minute journey was taking an average of an hour, according to TomTom

Wednesday June 22: How trains and Tubes are being hit today

RAILWAYS

How many trains will run on Wednesday?

Despite being no strike today, only around 60% of the 20,000 normal weekday services will be able to operate.

Why are timetables not returning to normal if there is no strike on Wednesday?

Walkouts by signallers and control room staff who would usually work overnight from Tuesday night into Wednesday morning means trains will leave depots later than normal, delaying the start of services.

How quickly will services ramp up?

In London, services will increase quickly as trains do not have to travel long distances from depots to stations.

It will take several hours in remote locations. 

Will services eventually return to normal on Wednesday?

No. Network Rail said that ‘even during the day the service will stay thinner’ than usual and some operators will wind down services slightly earlier than normal.

What other problems are there on the UK rail network this morning?

• Woking (South Western Railway) – points failure

• Tunbridge Wells and Hastings (Southeastern) – signalling fault

• London Liverpool Street and Tottenham Hale / Chingford (Greater Anglia; London Overground; Stansted Express) – lineside fire

• Slough and Windsor & Eton Central (Great Western Railway) – broken-down train

• Shoeburyness and Fenchurch Street (c2c) – overcrowding

• Harrow & Wealdstone and Wembley Central (London Overground) – strike action

• Richmond and Stratford (London Overground) – shortage of signalling staff

• Blackburn and Todmorden / Hebden Bridge (Northern) – lineside fire, buses replace trains

TUBE

Passengers were told not to expect a ‘normal service’ until mid-morning, with most tube lines shut until at least 8am because transport staff – including signallers and control room officers – did not work their overnight shifts. 

This morning, tempers flared at Paddington, Stratford, King’s Cross/St Pancras and more than a dozen other sites across the capital, while commuters tweeted TfL demanding to know why their local stations were not open at 8am as promised. Others posted pictures of empty Tube trains with no drivers, while those who managed to get onto trains found services were few and far between – and rammed.

Four hours later, there were still big problems across TfL services, with delays and part suspensions on the Circle and District Lines, the Hammersmith & City Line, the Metropolitan Line, the Piccadilly Line, and the London Overground. After a skeleton service yesterday, trains are in the wrong place and only 60% of the 20,000 normal weekday services will be able to operate today.

Traffic was as heavy as yesterday because more people had to use their cars. There were 2,046 traffic jams in London this morning, covering a total length of 834 miles, and a 30-minute journey was taking an average of an hour, according to traffic data analyst TomTom. Commuters again jostled on to packed buses, driving or cycling to the office or school during the biggest strike in 30 years.

Meanwhile, the human cost of the walkouts was laid bare after an NHS patient had to pay £165 for taxi from Portsmouth to London to get to his heart surgery.

Graham Benton, a 48-year-old former rowing champion, said: ‘The stress around whether the procedure would or wouldn’t go ahead and then the hassle and cost of getting there has been very stressful. I suffer from health anxiety due to my father’s early death and my own heart issues so the possibility it wasn’t going to go ahead soon was upsetting.’

Passengers are being told not to expect a ‘normal service’ until mid-morning because transport staff – including signallers and control room officers – did not work their overnight shifts in a bid to resolve a bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Many have been forced to walk or cycle or jump in a cab, with Uber journeys surging to roughly three times the price as desperate workers scramble to get to the office. 

Today a four mile journey in London, usually costing £13, cost passengers around £41. And the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) – the union for private hire drivers and couriers – has now called for a 24-hour national strike for Uber drivers from midnight.

Today is a 24-hour partial reprieve until the strikes resume tomorrow and again on Saturday. While the railway network is meant to be operational, commuters have been hit for the second day running.

The RMT will meet with National Rail and the train companies today in another attempt to break the deadlock.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said the turnout at picket lines on Tuesday was ‘fantastic’ and had exceeded expectations in the union’s campaign for job security, defending conditions and a decent pay rise.

He said: ‘Our members will continue the campaign and have shown outstanding unity in the pursuit of a settlement to this dispute.

‘RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and Government policy.

‘Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.’

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘These are desperately needed reforms that modernise the railway and put it on a sustainable footing for passengers and taxpayers.

‘Unions have shut down big parts of the rail network, hitting local businesses and unfairly cutting people off from hospitals, schools and work.

‘However, early data shows that unlike in the past, many people now have the opportunity to work from home, so we haven’t even a rush to the roads, as traffic has instead gone online, which means the unions aren’t having the overall impact they might have hoped.’

The union has been asked by Network Rail to attend formal consultation talks next month on introducing ‘modern working practices’.

Network Rail official Tim Shoveller said the changes will mean ‘dumping outdated working practices and introducing new technology’.

He added: ‘We expect this will reduce roles by around 1,800, the vast majority of which will be lost through voluntary severance and natural wastage.’

It comes as Tory backbencher Tobias Ellwood claimed that the strikes would only benefit Putin’s brutal war in Ukraine.

Speaking to Sky News, the MP said: ‘We face huge economic headwinds yet here we are causing such huge self-harm as the country is brought to a halt. I think Russia must be enjoying this self-inflicted distraction, pleased to see that the one government in Europe which is actually standing up to Putin is completely distracted in this way. 

‘I do hope the unions now call off future planned strikes… this isn’t just disrupting commuters, including key workers, but students as well and indeed the hospitality sector as well…

‘I say to the unions, please don’t be Putin’s friend, return to the talks today so we can get the country moving again.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid has branded the railway workers’ strikes as ‘unjustified’.

Speaking at a visit to St George’s Hospital on Wednesday, he said: ‘Well, I think, and I hope actually that the rail workers are quite unique in how they’ve responded to higher inflation because I think their strike is just just completely unjustified.

KINGSTON: The rammed A3 into London as commuters faced disruption and warm temperatures

KINGSTON: The rammed A3 into London as commuters faced disruption and warm temperatures

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: Busy platforms after the strike yesterday, with disruption to continue for six days

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: Busy platforms after the strike yesterday, with disruption to continue for six days

EUSTON: Passengers wait for the first trains at around 7am this morning as disruption from yesterday's strikes continue today

EUSTON: Passengers wait for the first trains at around 7am this morning as disruption from yesterday’s strikes continue today

EDGWARE ROAD: Traffic remains heavy today after people were forced into their cars because of a lack of trains

EDGWARE ROAD: Traffic remains heavy today after people were forced into their cars because of a lack of trains

SOUTH LONDON: Long queues of traffic in the capital as people struggle to work or take their children to school this morning

SOUTH LONDON: Long queues of traffic in the capital as people struggle to work or take their children to school this morning

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: Commuters force themselves on to buses as they try to get to work in a strike week

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: Commuters force themselves on to buses as they try to get to work in a strike week

GLASTO: Festivalgoers arrive at Worthy Farm for the start of Glastonbury 2022 after their journeys were disrupted. Thousands have arrived early

GLASTO: Festivalgoers arrive at Worthy Farm for the start of Glastonbury 2022 after their journeys were disrupted. Thousands have arrived early

SOUTH LONDON: A sole train heads towards Waterloo on a day where commuters were warned that it would be 'messy' for them today

SOUTH LONDON: A sole train heads towards Waterloo on a day where commuters were warned that it would be ‘messy’ for them today

Who else is set to join the summer strike contagion? 

Strikes could spread across the economy in the coming months. These are the areas affected – and those which could be hit – and the unions behind the ballots.

TRANSPORT

Strikes by the RMT across three days this week will close half of the country’s rail network and reduce service to a fifth of normal levels.

The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) is also balloting thousands of staff at Network Rail and several train companies, with the possibility of strikes as soon as July.

The train drivers’ union Aslef is set to strike at Greater Anglia and the Croydon Tramlink in the coming weeks.

Unite is also balloting about 500 British Airways check-in staff at Heathrow over a refusal to reverse a 10 per cent pandemic pay cut. If workers vote in favour, strikes are likely in July – potentially ruining some summer holidays.

EDUCATION

Teachers’ union NAS/UWT will ballot members over action unless the Government backs demands for a 12 per cent pay rise. A pay award for 2022/23 is due in November.

The National Education Union has said it will ballot its 460,000 members if a pay rise in line with inflation is not offered by the Government.

HEALTHCARE

Unison, which represents NHS staff, has said strikes are possible unless the annual pay offer for them is not close to the rate of inflation. The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, has also said it will prepare for a ballot unless junior doctors are given a 22 per cent ‘restorative’ pay rise.

The Royal College of Nursing has also demanded a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.

CIVIL SERVICE

The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents civil service workers, will hold a ballot in September over pay, pensions and redundancies.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Unison, GMB and Unite unions have said local government staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should receive a pay increase of at least £2,000 each. Workers include rubbish collectors, library staff, teaching assistants and care workers.

Unite said it will support ‘any action’ by workers to achieve a pay rise.

LAW 

Barristers have voted to go on strike in a row over legal aid funding.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said several days of court walkouts will begin from next week.

The promised industrial action, announced on Monday following a ballot of members, comes at a time of significant backlogs across the court system.

They are the latest profession to go on strike, ahead of planned action by rail workers later this week, and reports of unrest among teaching staff and NHS employees.

COMMUNICATIONS

The Communication Workers Union will ballot Royal Mail workers in a dispute over a pay rise offer of 2 per cent.

The union has also sent ballot papers to BT workers including engineers, contact centre staff and retail employees over pay. It could result in the first strike at the company since it was privatised in the mid-1980s.

PARKING WARDENS 

For some commuters hit by rising fuel costs and rail strikes, it is the glimmer of a silver lining.

This month traffic wardens will start a seven-day strike in protest at pay cuts and ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.

The walkout in Wiltshire means penalty charge notices will not be issued and charges in council car parks will not be enforced, costing £30,000 in revenue.

The action by the GMB from June 30 to July 6 follows two days of strikes in the county in May.

The union is opposing a pay cut of 10 per cent, or £2,000 a year, for traffic wardens, and said members were ‘at the end of their tether’.

Wiltshire Council is seeking to save £800,000 annually by ending contractual unsocial hours payments for almost 350 staff, including social workers and care workers.

‘It is right that we look to modernise our rail services, it is right we take into account perhaps the longer term impacts of the pandemic with the changing patterns of the way people work.

‘I think people recognise also that during the pandemic, the Government put in billions of pounds, I think, some £16billion of extra support for the rail industry. That’s something like £600 per family in the UK. But that can’t be continued.

‘We need to recognise this and make a changes and think this strike is unjustified and it’s hurting a lot of people, particularly people trying to get to hospital for their appointments and also you have NHS staff trying to get to the hospitals to help them.’

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the Government had to ‘hold the line’ against the RMT’s demands for improved pay and conditions on the railways.

The Justice Secretary said the strikes were ‘deeply regrettable’ and reform was necessary on the railways.

He told LBC Radio: ‘We’ve, of course, got to reform the way the railways operate, given the new ways to working on the effect that has on commuter travel. But there are also old practices, which frankly, are well out of date and unnecessary, which need to be reformed.’

He added: ‘I think Network Rail are taking the right approach. We know that the cost of living challenge is there, we know that it affects workers across the board.

‘But the one thing that will keep inflation higher for longer and undermine pay packets for longer is if we have spiralling public sector pay increases beyond what is responsible. And that’s what’s at issue here.

‘It is precisely to protect the wages of those on the lowest incomes that we need to hold the line.’

He told Sky News that rising inflation figures show the need for pay restraint in the public sector and on the railways.

‘We are facing a global struggle against inflation, if you look at the UK figures they are broadly comparable to the US or, in Europe, the Dutch and the Belgians, and it’s going to be difficult.

‘We really do understand the pressure that those on low incomes are facing at the moment, they are struggling to make ends meet.’

Setting out why public sector pay could not keep pace with inflation, he added: ‘If we don’t have those restraints, inflation will go higher for longer. And that will only undermine the pay packages of workers, particularly the most vulnerable workers, for a longer period of time.

‘We’re taking the action, we’re taking a firm line with, for example, the RMT union, precisely because we want to protect this erosion of pay packets by inflation.’

Most adults believe the rail strikes are justified, according to an opinion poll.

A survey of more than 2,300 people by Savanta ComRes showed that 58% said the industrial action is justified.

Younger adults aged 18-34 (72%) and Labour voters (79%) were more likely to see the strikes as justified compared to their older, aged 55 and above, (44%) and Conservative-voting (38%) counterparts.

Three out of five of those polled said they are generally supportive of the principle of industrial action, while just 35% were generally opposed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the public on notice for further strike action as Downing Street said it would ‘not give in’ to demands from the rail unions.

Mr Johnson warned commuters they must be ready to ‘stay the course’ and urged rail bosses and unions to agree on a modernisation package to safeguard the future of the industry.

Train services will continue to be disrupted on Wednesday by this week’s rail strikes as talks resume in a bid to resolve a bitter dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Fewer than one in five trains ran on Tuesday after members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) on Network Rail (NR) and 13 train operators staged the first of three walkouts, with strikes set to follow on Thursday and Saturday.

RMT members on London Underground also went on strike on Tuesday.

Fears of a wider general strike are growing. 

Teachers’ unions are now warning staff will be urged to strike in the autumn if they aren’t given an ‘inflation plus’ pay rise.

The National Education Union (NEU) said pay cuts and high workload were hitting teacher recruitment and retention, causing ‘real damage’ to education.

It criticised the Government’s evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body proposing a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, which it said would mean a ‘huge’ pay cut on the basis of Wednesday’s inflation figures of 9.1% on the CPI measure and 11.7% for RPI.

In a letter to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, the union called for a fully funded inflation-plus pay increase for all teachers, as well as action on pay for other staff such as support workers, as well as measures to reduce workloads.

The minister was told that teacher pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, even before this year’s increases in inflation, while their workload remains at ‘unsustainable’ levels.

The letter says: ‘Alongside the decline in teacher pay in real terms against inflation, it has also declined in relative terms against earnings.

‘Average teacher salaries are at their lowest level compared to average earnings across the economy in over 40 years.

‘Teachers and school leaders often tell us that workload is their predominant concern.

‘But right now, our members are telling us pay is a big issue too.

‘The combination of unsustainable hours, the work intensity during those hours and ever-falling pay levels are damaging our schools and the young people we are educating.

‘Teachers are looking at their working hours and their pay and calculating hourly rates, which are alarmingly low.

‘The latest teacher training figures are very worrying; applications have fallen by 24% compared with last year.

‘One in eight newly qualified teachers left the job in their first year of teaching.

‘These young people have often finished a degree, then completed a postgraduate qualification.

Graham Benton, a 48-year-old former rowing champion, paid £165 for a taxi at 5.30am from Portsmouth to central London for a heart operation because of the strikes.

Graham Benton, a 48-year-old former rowing champion, paid £165 for a taxi at 5.30am from Portsmouth to central London for a heart operation because of the strikes.

Graham Benton, a 48-year-old former rowing champion, paid £165 for a taxi at 5.30am from Portsmouth to central London for a heart operation because of the strikes.

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: One of the UK's busiest stations was deserted this morning as train services slowly fire up

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: One of the UK’s busiest stations was deserted this morning as train services slowly fire up

MARBLE ARCH: Tube stations across the capital are closed this morning, with passengers being told not to expect a 'normal service' until mid-morning

MARBLE ARCH: Tube stations across the capital are closed this morning, with passengers being told not to expect a ‘normal service’ until mid-morning

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: The station is still closed this morning following the biggest rail strike in three decades

CLAPHAM JUNCTION: The station is still closed this morning following the biggest rail strike in three decades

Red line: Labour MPs at London’s Victoria station yesterday, from left: 1. Beth Winter (Cynon Valley), 2. Kim Johnson (Liverpool Riverside), 3. Rachael Maskell (York Central), 4. Ian Mearns (Gateshead), 5. Richard Burgon (Leeds East), 6. Zarah Sultana (Coventry South), 7. Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby), 8. Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles), 9. Dan Carden (Liverpool Walton), 10. Paula Barker (Liverpool Wavertree)

Red line: Labour MPs at London’s Victoria station yesterday, from left: 1. Beth Winter (Cynon Valley), 2. Kim Johnson (Liverpool Riverside), 3. Rachael Maskell (York Central), 4. Ian Mearns (Gateshead), 5. Richard Burgon (Leeds East), 6. Zarah Sultana (Coventry South), 7. Ian Byrne (Liverpool West Derby), 8. Rebecca Long-Bailey (Salford and Eccles), 9. Dan Carden (Liverpool Walton), 10. Paula Barker (Liverpool Wavertree)

Former president of the National Union of Mineworkers Arthur Scargill joined members of the RMT union on the picket line outside Wakefield Railway Station today

Former president of the National Union of Mineworkers Arthur Scargill joined members of the RMT union on the picket line outside Wakefield Railway Station today

Class war! Teachers threaten to strike this autumn unless government offers ‘inflation plus’ pay rises

Teachers’ unions are now warning staff will be urged to strike in the autumn if they aren’t given an ‘inflation plus’ pay rise.

The National Education Union (NEU) said pay cuts and high workload were hitting teacher recruitment and retention, causing ‘real damage’ to education.

It criticised the Government’s evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body proposing a 3% pay increase for most teachers in England, which it said would mean a ‘huge’ pay cut on the basis of Wednesday’s inflation figures of 9.1% on the CPI measure and 11.7% for RPI.

In a letter to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, the union called for a fully funded inflation-plus pay increase for all teachers, as well as action on pay for other staff such as support workers, as well as measures to reduce workloads.

The minister was told that teacher pay has fallen by a fifth in real terms since 2010, even before this year’s increases in inflation, while their workload remains at ‘unsustainable’ levels.

‘They are a great loss to the profession, but more importantly to the nation’s pupils who rely on their teachers to educate and care for them.

‘You must respond to the new economic reality of double-digit inflation and the threat this poses to teacher living standards.

‘We call on you to commit to an inflation-plus increase for all teachers.

‘It is not good enough to only propose higher increases for beginner teachers (which are themselves likely to be lower than inflation).

‘The current inaction from the Government on these questions is causing real damage to education and to our members’ livelihoods.

‘We have to tell you that failing sufficient action by you, in the autumn term, we will consult our members on their willingness to take industrial action.

‘And we will be strongly encouraging them to vote yes.

‘We can no longer stand by while you run both education and educators into the ground.’

It comes as Royal Mail workers have demanded a ‘no strings, inflation-based’ pay rise as they prepare to vote on industrial action. 

‘We have further talks on change with CWU this week. We hope this will ultimately lead to an agreement on the changes required to ensure Royal Mail can grow and remain competitive in a fast-moving industry, securing jobs for the future and retaining our place as the industry leader on pay and terms and conditions.

‘We value the work we do with CWU and remain committed to agreeing a deal for tomorrow, not just today.’

It raises further fears that a general strike could take place this summer. 

TUC chief Frances O’Grady warned that strikes will spread across the country unless workers get ‘pay justice’.

She said Mr Clarke’s comments made a mockery of Boris Johnson’s pledge to build a ‘high wage economy’.

She added: ‘Working families struggling to pay their bills have earned a decent pay rise. When will we hear the government calling for restraint in the boardroom and on profits?’

Terry Pullinger, CWU deputy general secretary, pictured here in 2016, said the union would ballot 115,000 members over potential strike action

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, said more than 450,000 teachers are considering industrial action if they are not given a pay rise of up to 12 per cent

Terry Pullinger, CWU deputy general secretary, pictured here in 2016, said the union would ballot 115,000 members over potential strike action. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, said more than 450,000 teachers are considering industrial action if they are not given a pay rise of up to 12 per cent

Unite West Midlands shared a picture on Twitter yesterday morning of workers gathered outside Coventry station this morning waving the green flags of Lynch's RMT union and a red National Education Union banner

Unite West Midlands shared a picture on Twitter yesterday morning of workers gathered outside Coventry station this morning waving the green flags of Lynch’s RMT union and a red National Education Union banner

A striking RMT member standing in front of a red RMT banner at Nottingham Train Station holding copies of the Socialist Worker. The paper splash reads: 'Together we can win. Strike to beat Tories. Back the rail worker'

A striking RMT member standing in front of a red RMT banner at Nottingham Train Station holding copies of the Socialist Worker. The paper splash reads: ‘Together we can win. Strike to beat Tories. Back the rail worker’

Don’t be Putin’s friend, Tory hawk tells striking unions: MP Tobias Ellwood says Russia ‘will be enjoying self-inflicted distraction’ of Lynch’s mass walkouts

A Tory hawk has urged Mick Lynch and his militant RMT union: ‘Don’t be Putin’s friend’.

MP Tobias Ellwood told Sky News: ‘We face huge economic headwinds yet here we are causing such huge self-harm as the country is brought to a halt. I think Russia must be enjoying this self-inflicted distraction, pleased to see that the one government in Europe which is actually standing up to Putin is completely distracted in this way. 

‘I do hope the unions now call off future planned strikes… this isn’t just disrupting commuters, including key workers, but students as well and indeed the hospitality sector as well…

‘I say to the unions, please don’t be Putin’s friend, return to the talks today so we can get the country moving again.’

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) says it will ballot 115,000 Royal Mail workers over potential strike action in a row over pay, saying that a two per cent pay increase offered by the company is ‘totally inadequate’. 

Terry Pullinger, CWU deputy general secretary accused Royal Mail management of conducting themselves ‘insultingly and disrespectfully to key workers’, but Royal Mail said it had offered the biggest pay increase ‘for many years’.

The union will send out ballot papers on June 28, with the result becoming known next month.

It comes as unions demand inflation-matching pay increases and promises that staff will not be made redundant in what is becoming a ‘Summer of discontent’. 

In scenes that mirror those seen in the 1980s, thousands of workers led by militant union bosses have walked out of their jobs to demand higher wages and no job cuts. 

So far millions of commuters have been left in the lurch as 50,000 RMT workers went on strike, and are set to do so again on Thursday and Saturday.  

The news today that Royal Mail workers are considering going on strike was broken by Mr Pullinger in a video posted on Twitter. In it he said: ‘Today we will be serving a notice on Royal Mail Group over a pay claim – our claim for an inflation-based, no-strings pay award.

‘The company has imposed a 2% pay award, miles away from where inflation is, totally inadequate. 

‘Throughout this entire dispute, Royal Mail management have conducted themselves insultingly and disrespectfully to key workers.

‘Their conduct, and particularly the imposition of such an aggressive pay offer, has eroded trust among loyal employees.

‘Nobody wants to be in this situation, but our members are heroes.

‘We will defend ourselves if provoked – and we are convinced we will receive our biggest ever Yes vote for action.’

CWU general-secretary Dave Ward said: ‘Our members have been treated in a completely undignified manner by the people they make incredible profits for.

‘Our members kept this country connected throughout our country’s greatest crisis since World War Two, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice.

‘Now, they are being told there’s nothing for them, and they have to accept having less while the mega profits of bosses come first.

‘The state of affairs is unjust and unsustainable, and I have no doubt that our 115,000 members will stand strong against it and deliver a historic vote for action.’

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: ‘We believe there are no grounds for industrial action. We offered a deal worth up to 5.5% for CWU grade colleagues, the biggest increase we have offered for many years, which was rejected by the CWU.’

Glastonbury to be drenched by THUNDERSTORMS: Festivalgoers who battled through travel chaos will have to swap sunhats for waterproofs as Met Office issues a severe weather warning for tomorrow 

Thousands of eager music fans could be forced to camp in torrential downpours at Glastonbury after the Met Office issued a yellow thunderstorm warning for southern England on Thursday.

Forecasters have put a yellow warning in place between 10am and 11.59pm with torrential downpours expected from Sheffield down to Somerset, where Glastonbury is held.

With another rail strike taking place on Thursday, it is likely the storms will add to transport issues with poor driving conditions and floodwater on roads, potentially causing danger to life.

The Met Office said there is a chance of further rail and bus cancellations due to lightning strikes. It also warned of power cuts to some homes and businesses, while remote communities could be cut off due to flooded roads.

Flooding could also cause some road closures, with heavy traffic on the roads already expected around the UK due to rail strikes.

Thousands of eager music fans have queued in traffic since dawn for the first day of Glastonbury after the strike forced many to camp overnight.

Organisers told fans they could begin parking at the site from 4pm on Tuesday after trains and Tube services were disrupted for a second day running – forcing revellers to get to Worthy Farm early to beat the rush. 

The festival’s main stage will not open until Friday, with headliner Billie Eilish set for the iconic Pyramid Stage followed by Sir Paul McCartney on Saturday and rapper Kendrick Lamar bringing the event to a close on Sunday.

However, DJs and live music is planned from today for eager fans who have arrived at the site early – as more than 200,000 people are expected to descend at Glastonbury over the next two days.

The founder of the Somerset festival Michael Eavis was pictured officially opening the gate to Glastonbury this morning marking the official start of the four-day music spectacular.

The festival is returning for its 50th anniversary after a three-year hiatus due to Covid-19. 

Eavis and his daughter Emily were stood at one of the festival’s many entry points and clapped as the first attendees entered the site.

Eavis, 86, told those entering the gates: ‘This is going to be the best show in town.

‘Wait and see. You better believe it.’

Huge crowds of revellers were pictured sitting on camping chairs by metal railings as they secured their spot in line to the entrance of the festival.

Armed with camping gear and cool boxes, excited fans waited patiently as they queued to get in to the UK’s most-anticipated music event of the year as they were met with glorious 19C (66F) sunshine – a pleasant change from the usual rain that marks the start of the muddy festival. 

Thousands of eager festivalgoers arrive at Worthy Farm this morning for the official start of Glastonbury Festival 2022

Thousands of eager festivalgoers arrive at Worthy Farm this morning for the official start of Glastonbury Festival 2022

Armed with camping gear and cool boxes, excited fans waited patiently as they queued to get in to the UK's most-anticipated music event of the year

Armed with camping gear and cool boxes, excited fans waited patiently as they queued to get in to the UK’s most-anticipated music event of the year

Motorists were pictured arriving early at the music extravaganza to beat the rush today amid ongoing rail strikes

Motorists were pictured arriving early at the music extravaganza to beat the rush today amid ongoing rail strikes  

Festivalgoers arrived at the site carrying their camping supplies and coolboxes filled with their favourite beverages

Festivalgoers arrived at the site carrying their camping supplies and coolboxes filled with their favourite beverages 

Revellers were met with glorious 19C (66F) sunshine - a pleasant change from the usual rain that marks the start of the muddy festival

Revellers were met with glorious 19C (66F) sunshine – a pleasant change from the usual rain that marks the start of the muddy festival

The founder of the Somerset festival Michael Eavis was pictured opening the gate to Glastonbury this morning marking the official start of the four-day music spectacular

The founder of the Somerset festival Michael Eavis was pictured opening the gate to Glastonbury this morning marking the official start of the four-day music spectacular

A woman with pink hair extensions and matching hued sunglasses was pictured queuing for entry on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset today

A woman with pink hair extensions and matching hued sunglasses was pictured queuing for entry on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset today 

Glastonbury festival today

Glastonbury festival today

The Glastonbury gates officially opened this morning for excited music fans who have been queuing since Tuesday amid the ongoing rail strikes

Music fans Simon Lampard, (left) 82-year-old Pat Brooks (middle) and Linda Brooks-Lampard (right) arrive on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Music fans Simon Lampard, (left) 82-year-old Pat Brooks (middle) and Linda Brooks-Lampard (right) arrive on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

One reveller posed for the camera wearing a multicolour long cardigan as she queued for the iconic festival

One reveller posed for the camera wearing a multicolour long cardigan as she queued for the iconic festival

Huge crowds of revellers were pictured sitting on camping chairs by metal railings as they secured their spot in line to the entrance of the festival

Huge crowds of revellers were pictured sitting on camping chairs by metal railings as they secured their spot in line to the entrance of the festival

A 'beer drive thru' sign to mark the start of the festival was put up for Brits who are lined up in traffic

A ‘beer drive thru’ sign to mark the start of the festival was put up for Brits who are lined up in traffic

Despite, Glastonbury usually opening its parking facilities at 9pm the night before the first day of the music extravaganza, bosses allowed the car parks to open yesterday afternoon – but this morning roads to the site were gridlocked with traffic.

Organisers said: ‘There will be no entertainment or facilities other than toilets in the car parks and festivalgoers will be expected to remain in their cars until the festival gates open.’

Great Western Railway is hoping to maintain trains to Castle Cary – the nearest station – but has advised passengers to check for amendments before travelling.

A GWR spokesman said: ‘All we are expecting are festival workers, the site doesn’t open to the general public until Wednesday.

‘It was busy on Monday but most of the people who arrived were scheduled to get here early. Since then the numbers have been minimal compared to what we would see on a normal festival travel day.’

Emily Eavis has said it is an ‘amazing feeling’ to see people returning to Glastonbury festival.

The music event has opened its gates this morning, signalling its return for the first time in three years after it was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to Lauren Laverne on 6 Music, she said of the gates opening: ‘I mean, I’m still recovering because the build up has just been so long, we’ve never had a build up as long as this, obviously.

‘We’ve never all collectively been through such an extreme time together, so it’s like, to actually be able to see people there and welcome them in and just watch them streaming in and just running to pitch their tents up and fill the fields, it’s just an amazing feeling.’

Speaking about the build-up to this year’s event she told BBC radio presenter Laverne that, as this year celebrates the festival’s 50th anniversary, some of the original ideas for the 2020 festival are ‘are still kind of playing out this year and then we’ve melded all kinds of ideas into this one festival and we’ve had so much time to kind of think about this one and I think every detail, and kind of part of the process has been devoured and savoured by everybody, because it’s so precious.

Wearing a sequinned hat that was dazzled with letters that spelt the word Glastonbury, revellers queued to enter the Somerset premises

Wearing a sequinned hat that was dazzled with letters that spelt the word Glastonbury, revellers queued to enter the Somerset premises 

Fans arrived at the event carrying huge rucksacks and cool bags, while wheeling their possessions to the site

Fans arrived at the event carrying huge rucksacks and cool bags, while wheeling their possessions to the site 

Fans carried their belongings and colourful outfits on their backs as they travelled to the gate to set up their tents

Fans carried their belongings and colourful outfits on their backs as they travelled to the gate to set up their tents

Pictured: People queue for entry on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Pictured: People queue for entry on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

This year's much-anticipated festival, running from Wednesday to Sunday, will host huge stars from Diana Ross and Sir Paul McCartney, to Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and Olivia Rodrigo

This year’s much-anticipated festival, running from Wednesday to Sunday, will host huge stars from Diana Ross and Sir Paul McCartney, to Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and Olivia Rodrigo

Dressed in shorts and wearing sunglasses and hats, music fans waited in line as they queued in glorious sunshine

Dressed in shorts and wearing sunglasses and hats, music fans waited in line as they queued in glorious sunshine 

Traffic builds up around the site ahead of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset today

Traffic builds up around the site ahead of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset today

Thousands of revellers queued on Wednesday as they waited for the gates to open for the much-anticipated festival

Thousands of revellers queued on Wednesday as they waited for the gates to open for the much-anticipated festival

Traffic jams builds up around the famous Somerset site ahead of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Traffic jams builds up around the famous Somerset site ahead of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

A woman wearing a flower crown was pictured arriving on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

A woman wearing a flower crown was pictured arriving on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

‘Everyone is appreciating it so, so much… everyone is just still beaming because they are so pleased, everyone is so chuffed to be back so it’s a totally unique atmosphere, I just can’t wait to get everyone in here.’

Shortly before the gates opened, radio host Jo Whiley said Glastonbury is the ‘ultimate festival’ and that Sir Paul McCartney’s headlining slot on the Pyramid Stage on Saturday night is a ‘very, very important and significant performance’.

The former Beatle, 80, will become the music festival’s oldest ever solo headliner when he takes to the stage this weekend.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Whiley said: ‘Glastonbury is the ultimate festival, it’s a celebration of all the arts and it’s all about the human experience.

‘So yes, there are all these bands playing, there’s the main stage, everyone gets very excited about that, but it’s all about just enjoying this, just the amount of things I think you can enjoy when you get there… Over 100 stages, there are all different kinds of performances going on wherever, so you have to think of it as like a massive smorgasbord that you can go along and you can just keep tasting all these different things… circus acts, cabaret, music.

‘And everyone is just so friendly, so you make lots of friends, it’s just a wonderful experience.’

On Sunday on BBC Radio 2 Whiley will present live from Pilton, 7pm-9pm, including highlights from Diana Ross’ set on the Pyramid Stage.

She told BBC Radio 4 of Sir Paul that it’s a ‘very, very important and significant performance that will be happening then, it’s the greatest songwriter of all time from the biggest band, at the greatest festival in the world, it’s a big moment’.

A man is pictured with a tent on his back for entry on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

A man is pictured with a tent on his back for entry on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Emma Maggs and her daughter Daise  pictured on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Emma Maggs and her daughter Daise  pictured on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Revellers carry huge bags snd suitcases towards to gate os Glastonbury festival, which has opened today

Revellers carry huge bags snd suitcases towards to gate os Glastonbury festival, which has opened today 

One woman wearing Hunter wellington boots carries her suitcase as she arrives on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

One woman wearing Hunter wellington boots carries her suitcase as she arrives on the first day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Michael Eavis gestures next to his daughter Emily, as he opens the gate for Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Michael Eavis gestures next to his daughter Emily, as he opens the gate for Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Traffic builds up around the site on Wednesday morning ahead of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Traffic builds up around the site on Wednesday morning ahead of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Somerset

Shortly before the gates officially opened at 8am on Wednesday, hundreds of Glastonbury attendees had already been queueing for hours with their bags and some said they arrived at the site in the early hours of the morning.

Mark Lawrie, 49, from Reading, who works for a sports charity, said he had arrived at the festival at 2am with his 18-year-old daughter Bethan.

‘We slept in the car for a few hours and joined the queue at 6am,’ he told the PA news agency.

‘This is our third time and it’s always brilliant. The moment you get here and start to see the tops of the tents, you get such a buzz.

‘It’s always such a positive atmosphere here, everyone’s just so nice to each other and friendly to each other, but I think after what we’ve been through the last two and a half years it’s going to be special.’

Ms Lawrie said the act she is most looking forward to is Billie Eilish, while her father said he is hotly anticipating Sir Paul McCartney.

‘When I was first a primary school teacher, I didn’t realise this but I lived next door to (McCartney) in East Sussex,’ he said. ‘One morning he was walking his dog outside and I had a hangover so I was in bed and didn’t go to say hello to him.

‘My parents will absolutely never forgive me for not having done that, so he’ll be amazing to see.’

Ahead of the five-day event, meteorologist Tom Morgan from the Met Office told the PA news agency, this year’s weather outlook promises to be ‘one of two halves’.

Temperatures could reach 27C at the 900-acre site – 9C higher than usual – in the lead-up to the world-famous event.

However, the mud synonymous with Glastonbury is still set to make an appearance, with showers and thunderstorms predicted from Friday onwards.

To the dismay of many festival-goers the event coincides with three days of planned major rail strikes over rail workers’ pay, leading to travel disruption for people making their way to Worthy Farm.

Just 60% of trains will run across Wednesday, with walkouts planned for Thursday and Saturday.This year’s much-anticipated festival, running from Wednesday to Sunday, will host huge stars from Diana Ross and Sir Paul McCartney, to Billie Eilish, Kendrick Lamar and Olivia Rodrigo.

Revealed: The ‘Spanish practices’ 25 Labour MPs took to picket lines to defend – including ‘sending NINE men to change a plug socket’ and giving drivers 12 minutes’ pay for one-minute walk – as Boris vows to ‘stay the course’ against unions

Militant unions have been accused of wanting to preserve ‘Spanish practices’ that include sending nine workers to ‘change a plug socket’, banning staff from working 500 yards from base and giving drivers 12 minutes of pay for making a 60-second walk – as Boris Johnson vowed to ‘stay the course’ against union dinosaurs.

As militant unions caused travel misery for millions, Keir Starmer faced a mutiny by his own MPs.

At least 25 of them ignored the party’s stance and joined the picket lines even as their constituents were struggling to get to work.

And senior figures, including Sir Keir’s own deputy Angela Rayner, backed the RMT union in its bid to bring the country to its knees.

The Labour leader was accused of going into ‘hiding’ after he refused to comment on the biggest industrial dispute for 30 years.

Boris Johnson said the strike was ‘wrong and unnecessary’ and called for a return to negotiations. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused Labour and the unions of ‘taking us back to the bad old days’ of the 1970s.

He added: ‘I pity poor Keir Starmer, a man trying to ride two horses at once.

‘He knows this strike is pointlessly destructive but his warning has been flatly ignored by shadow frontbenchers and backbenchers in thrall to unions who are prepared to place sectional interests above those of the country.

‘He is facing a crisis of authority. The Left senses his weakness and is humiliating him with every Labour MP’s appearance on a picket line. He has lost his grip on his own party.’

And industry sources yesterday shed new light on inefficiencies that cost taxpayers billions of pounds.

A walking time allowance of 12 minutes for a journey that takes 60 seconds and specialist teams refusing to share vehicles are among inefficiencies said to be costing billions of pounds to the taxpayer, according to industry sources.

A rail insider told The Telegraph: ‘We can’t roster individuals. Let’s imagine you want to change a single socket to a double in your kitchen. Potentially you’d need an electrician, a tiler and a plumber as your dishwasher waste pipe will need adjusting too.

‘Alternatively, you could find a competent odd-jobber to do the whole task. In Network Rail we can’t roster individuals, only teams and we can’t multi-skill those teams so we’d need to send a team of three electricians, three tilers and three plumbers – nine people to do a job one person could do.

‘Eighty per cent of the most common infrastructure faults could be fixed by small, multi-skilled teams.’

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines also described the industry as ‘archaic’ as he slammed ‘poor productivity’ throughout rail.

Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer addressees Labour supporters as he campaigns in Wakefield ahead of the by-election on June 18

Labour Party leader Sir Kier Starmer addressees Labour supporters as he campaigns in Wakefield ahead of the by-election on June 18

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of Labour Party, during the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) rally on June 18

Angela Rayner, deputy leader of Labour Party, during the British Trades Union Congress (TUC) rally on June 18

Another industry source cited the renovation of Birmingham New Street station, completed in 2010, during which train staff were relocated to offices within the city’s Guildhall.

They claimed the trade union insisted on renegotiating ‘walking time allowance’, namely paid time from leaving a train to arriving at the office.

But the union was claimed to have used a train driver ‘with a gammy leg’ to complete the walk and ‘timed them from the end of the longest train, at the furthest extent of the station’.

Out on strike, yet paid more than teachers and nurses 

By Andy Jehring

Rail unions brought Britain to a standstill yesterday to demand more cash despite some of their members earning big salaries.

Train drivers have a median salary of £59,000 – which is around £5,000 more than the pay of an average solicitor or a major in the Army.

Rail workers in general earn £44,000 on average according to the Government, which is higher than teachers (£41,800), the Royal Navy (£36,666), and an Army sergeant (£35,853).

The RMT claims this figure is not representative of those striking as the majority of drivers who earn the most are not on the picket line, while low-paid staff such as cleaners are.

It said the median salary of those protesting was £33,000 – but that is still over 25 per cent higher than the median annual pay of UK workers (£25,971) and nearly double a care worker’s average pay (£17,000).

Even taking the union barons’ figure as gospel would still mean that those on strike earn roughly the same as most nurses and a little more than a junior doctor who have gone through seven years of training.

It means low-skilled workers already earning more than frontline NHS staff are holding Britain to ransom to try and get a 7 per cent pay raise. This is despite the Government already providing £16billion so that not a single rail worker had to be furloughed through the pandemic.

The walking time allowance was subsequently set at 12 minutes, despite Google Maps showing a completion time of just 60 seconds. 

It is also understood that maintenance staff are not allowed to cross boundary lines, meaning staff at nearby stations cannot be called upon to fix issues at neighbouring transport hubs, while specialist teams refuse to share vans and equipment and switching desks is also said to be off limits.  

But still the Labour Party was in chaos over crippling rail strikes last night as Keir Starmer faced a mutiny by his own MPs.

At least 25 of them ignored disciplinary warnings and joined the picket lines even as their constituents were struggling to get to work.

The Labour leader had warned told his frontbench they should stay away from picket lines after the RMT launched the biggest rail strike since 1989, but – in a serious threat to his authority – at least four of them ignored him.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also met striking workers in Edinburgh and, less surprisingly, a number of hard-left Labour backbenchers also joined the strike action, including former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

Of the 25 pictured yesterday, analysis has found that 19 of these MPs have received donations from the unions totalling £890,717. 

The donations were all listed in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Some were direct personal donations, while others were to constituency parties and others were for chairing all-party groups and other administrative costs.

Among them was Rebecca Long-Bailey, who lost a Labour leadership bid to Mr Starmer following Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation. The MP for Salford and Eccles declared £345,325 from unions between 2015 and 2021, much of it around the time of her leadership campaign in early 2020. 

Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, another hard-Left Labour member, also declared £97,219.52 in union donations between 2015 and 2022. 

Ian Mearns, MP for Gateshead, and John McDonnell were also among the high-profile union supporters to receive money in donations. 

Meanwhile, Mr Starmer was accused of going into ‘hiding’ after he refused to comment on the biggest industrial dispute for 30 years.

Boris Johnson said the strike was ‘wrong and unnecessary’ and called for a return to negotiations. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused Labour and the unions of ‘taking us back to the bad old days’ of the 1970s.

He added: ‘I pity poor Keir Starmer, a man trying to ride two horses at once.

‘He knows this strike is pointlessly destructive but his warning has been flatly ignored by shadow frontbenchers and backbenchers in thrall to unions who are prepared to place sectional interests above those of the country.  

‘He is facing a crisis of authority. The Left senses his weakness and is humiliating him with every Labour MP’s appearance on a picket line. 

‘He has lost his grip on his own party.’

Yesterday’s strike by 40,000 rail workers caused massive travel disruption, with fewer than 20 per cent of services thought to have run.

Travellers were left stranded or forced to take to congested roads as the strike saw rail bosses cancel all services on some lines and shut down early.

Commuters face further disruption today ahead of another all-out strike tomorrow in a bitter dispute about pay and rail reforms. 

As the Prime Minister vowed to ‘stay the course’ against union militants amid fears that strikes could spread like wildfire through the public sector:

  • RMT boss Mick Lynch called on union bosses to co-ordinate industrial action across every town and city to cause maximum disruption;
  • Some 19 of the Labour MPs who joined the picket lines yesterday have declared nearly £900,000 in funding from trade unions, analysis of the register of members’ financial interests showed;
  • A YouGov poll found the public opposed yesterday’s strike by a margin of 45:37;
  • Network Rail boss Andrew Haines revealed negotiators had got within a ‘gnat’s whisker’ of a deal on Monday before the RMT decided to press ahead with the strikes;
  • A former top aide to Sir Keir said he would face an ‘explosion’ if he tried to sack Labour MPs who defied him to back the strikes;
  • Downing Street warned that public sector pay would be held well below inflation;
  • Union dinosaur Arthur Scargill joined a rail picket line in West Yorkshire;
  • London commuters faced extra misery as 10,000 Underground workers walked out in a separate dispute;
  • The Communication Workers Union balloted 115,000 postal workers over strike action following a 2 per cent pay offer from bosses.

‘Spanish practices’ RMT is battling to save includes ‘requiring nine workers to ‘change a plug socket”

It emerged last night that among the ‘Spanish practices’ the RMT is accused of bringing Britain to a halt over include outdated working practices that require nine workers to complete basic tasks such as ‘changing a plug socket5’, The Telegraph reports. 

A walking time allowance of 12 minutes for a journey that takes 60 seconds and specialist teams refusing to share vehicles are also among inefficiencies said to be costing billions of pounds to the taxpayer.

An insider told the newspaper: ‘We can’t roster individuals. Let’s imagine you want to change a single socket to a double in your kitchen. Potentially you’d need an electrician, a tiler and a plumber as your dishwasher waste pipe will need adjusting too.

‘Alternatively, you could find a competent odd-jobber to do the whole task. In Network Rail we can’t roster individuals, only teams and we can’t multi-skill those teams so we’d need to send a team of three electricians, three tilers and three plumbers – nine people to do a job one person could do.

‘Eighty per cent of the most common infrastructure faults could be fixed by small, multi-skilled teams.’

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines described the industry as ‘archaic’ as he slammed ‘poor productivity’ throughout rail. 

Sir Keir yesterday took a vow of silence on the rail dispute, with aides saying he would make no public comment either for or against the strikes.

A spokesman for the Labour leader said: ‘Unlike the Government, our focus is firmly on the public. 

‘The Tories are in charge – the responsibility for this week’s chaos lies firmly with them.’

Mrs Rayner took advantage of the leadership vacuum at the top of the Labour Party to make clear she backed the strikes, which are due to be repeated on Saturday as well as tomorrow.

‘Workers have been left with no choice,’ she said.

‘No one takes strike action lightly. I will always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work.’

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also defied Sir Keir to back the strike, which has left no rail services operating north of Glasgow today.

Mr Sarwar joined strikers on a picket line in Edinburgh to show ‘solidarity’, and said the crisis was ‘entirely of the Government’s making’.

Sir Keir’s office told Labour frontbenchers on Monday that they would be disciplined if they joined picket lines outside stations.

But at least four members of Sir Keir’s top team ignored the warning, including shadow minister Alex Sobel, whip Navendu Mishra and parliamentary aides Kate Osborne and Paula Barker.

Others joining picket lines across the country included former leadership contender Rebecca Long-Bailey and former shadow cabinet members John McDonnell, Diane Abbott and Richard Burgon.

Sir Keir ordered his MPs last week not to condemn the rail strikes. But he has also refused to say whether he supports the dispute.

Sharon Graham of the Unite union said: ‘The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers, by words and by actions. 

‘You don’t lead by hiding. No one respects that.’

Network Rail’s Mr Haines apologised to passengers at Waterloo in London, branding the station a ‘wasteland’ and comparing it to the ‘darkest days of Covid’.

He added: ‘We know there are some real-life issues for people who can’t travel today. It’s so wrong.’

Labour MPs on the rail picket lines…and some of them even got a share of £890,000 from unions

Labour MPs who defied their leader to join rail strikers yesterday have received nearly £900,000 in union funding, analysis reveals.

Sir Keir Starmer has told his frontbench they should stay away from picket lines after the RMT launched the biggest rail strike since 1989.

But – in a serious threat to his authority – at least four of them ignored him. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also met striking workers in Edinburgh.

Less surprisingly, a number of hard-left Labour backbenchers also joined the strike action, including former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott.

She tweeted: ‘On the RMT union picket line at the Seven Sisters depot. (But don’t tell Keir Starmer).’ Ten MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group – including Jeremy Corbyn supporters Rebecca Long-Bailey and Richard Burgon – proudly posed for pictures with striking RMT members at Victoria Station in London.

Labour MPs who defied their leader to join rail strikers yesterday have received nearly £900,000 in union funding, analysis reveals. Pictured centre: Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Labour MPs who defied their leader to join rail strikers yesterday have received nearly £900,000 in union funding, analysis reveals. Pictured centre: Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Sir Keir Starmer has told his frontbench they should stay away from picket lines after the RMT launched the biggest rail strike since 1989. Pictured third from right: John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington

Sir Keir Starmer has told his frontbench they should stay away from picket lines after the RMT launched the biggest rail strike since 1989. Pictured third from right: John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington

But – in a serious threat to his authority – at least four of them ignored him. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also met striking workers in Edinburgh. Pictured far left: Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead

But – in a serious threat to his authority – at least four of them ignored him. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also met striking workers in Edinburgh. Pictured far left: Mick Whitley, MP for Birkenhead

Less surprisingly, a number of hard-left Labour backbenchers also joined the strike action, including former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. Pictured centre in a blue shirt: Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough

Less surprisingly, a number of hard-left Labour backbenchers also joined the strike action, including former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott. Pictured centre in a blue shirt: Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough

A total of 25 Labour MPs were pictured on picket lines yesterday.

Analysis found that 19 of these MPs have received donations from the unions totalling £890,717. Tory MP Gareth Bacon said: ‘Weak Keir Starmer’s authority is shot. As these figures show, Labour MPs are clearly on the side of the militant union barons filling their coffers rather than hard working commuters simply trying to get to work.’

The donations were all listed in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Some were direct personal donations, while others were to constituency parties and others were for chairing all-party groups and other administrative costs.

Top of the list by far was hard-Left MP Mrs Long-Bailey, who stood for the Labour leadership after the resignation of Mr Corbyn. The MP for Salford and Eccles declared £345,325 from unions between 2015 and 2021, much of it around the time of her leadership campaign in early 2020.

Most of her donations came from Unite, the union formerly headed by Len McCluskey. She also received money from the Communication Workers Union (CWU), the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) and the RMT.

Despite the funding, however, Mrs Long-Bailey lost to Sir Keir in the leadership race. Yesterday she tweeted: ‘I was out on the picket line at Victoria Station in London this morning in with RMT union workers and Socialist Campaign Group colleagues. Solidarity to all on strike today. All they want is fair pay and to protect jobs and services.’ She completed the message with an emoji of a raised fist.

Next was Richard Burgon, MP for Leeds East, another hard-Left Labour member who came a distant third when he stood for deputy leader. He declared £97,219.52 in union donations between 2015 and 2022. Again, most of the cash was from Unite but he also received money from the GMB.

Ten MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group proudly posed for pictures with striking RMT members at Victoria Station in London. Pictured centre in a white polo: Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck since 2010

Ten MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group proudly posed for pictures with striking RMT members at Victoria Station in London. Pictured centre in a white polo: Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck since 2010

A total of 25 Labour MPs were pictured on picket lines yesterday. Pictured centre holding a green RMT flag: Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow since 2019

A total of 25 Labour MPs were pictured on picket lines yesterday. Pictured centre holding a green RMT flag: Kate Osborne, MP for Jarrow since 2019

Analysis found that 19 of these MPs have received donations from the unions totalling £890,717. Pictured centre in a high-vis jacket and helmet: Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West and shadow environment minister

Analysis found that 19 of these MPs have received donations from the unions totalling £890,717. Pictured centre in a high-vis jacket and helmet: Alex Sobel, MP for Leeds North West and shadow environment minister

The donations were all listed in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Pictured: Navendu Mishra (second left) Opposition Whip and MP for Stockport and Lloyd Russell-Moyle (far right), MP for Brighton Kemptown

The donations were all listed in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Pictured: Navendu Mishra (second left) Opposition Whip and MP for Stockport and Lloyd Russell-Moyle (far right), MP for Brighton Kemptown

Yesterday he tweeted: ‘Great to pop to the picket line at Victoria Station this morning with other Labour MPs from the Socialist Campaign Group to show solidarity with RMT union workers forced by this Tory government into strike action to defend their pay, jobs and conditions.’

Ian Mearns, the Labour MP for Gateshead, declared £86,375 from the RMT between 2016 and 2020.

This was for ‘administration and coordination of the RMT Parliamentary Group, which I chair’.

Other high-profile union supporters include John McDonnell, who received £54,454.97 in union donations between 2014 and 2021.

The former shadow chancellor accepted most of his donations from Unite, but he also took money from the GMB, CWU, FBU and the RMT. Yesterday he tweeted: ‘Proud to join the RMT picket line this morning at West Ruislip in my [West London] borough. Solidarity to RMT union.’

Sir Keir’s office ordered all shadow ministers and junior parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) to stay away from the picket lines. The order stated: ‘Please be reminded that frontbenchers including PPSs’ should not be on picket lines.’

But four did so – shadow environment minister Alex Sobel, opposition whip Navendu Mishra, shadow defence PPS Paula Barker and shadow Northern Ireland PPS Kate Osborne. And although she did not attend a picket line, deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner pointedly tweeted: ‘No one takes strike action lightly. I will always defend their absolute right to do so for fairness at work.’

Some were direct personal donations, while others were to constituency parties and others were for chairing all-party groups and other administrative costs. Pictured centre wearing a scarf: Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West and former teacher

Some were direct personal donations, while others were to constituency parties and others were for chairing all-party groups and other administrative costs. Pictured centre wearing a scarf: Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West and former teacher

Top of the list by far was hard-Left MP Mrs Long-Bailey, who stood for the Labour leadership after the resignation of Mr Corbyn. Pictured centre in a pink dress: Nadia Whittome, who did not receive any union money

Top of the list by far was hard-Left MP Mrs Long-Bailey, who stood for the Labour leadership after the resignation of Mr Corbyn. Pictured centre in a pink dress: Nadia Whittome, who did not receive any union money

The MP for Salford and Eccles declared £345,325 from unions between 2015 and 2021, much of it around the time of her leadership campaign in early 2020. Pictured centre wearing a cap with sunglasses: Clive Lewis, who has been MP for Norwich South since 2015

The MP for Salford and Eccles declared £345,325 from unions between 2015 and 2021, much of it around the time of her leadership campaign in early 2020. Pictured centre wearing a cap with sunglasses: Clive Lewis, who has been MP for Norwich South since 2015

Other high-profile union supporters include John McDonnell, who received £54,454.97 in union donations between 2014 and 2021. Pictured centre: Tahir Ali, MP for Birmingham Hall Green since 2019

Other high-profile union supporters include John McDonnell, who received £54,454.97 in union donations between 2014 and 2021. Pictured centre: Tahir Ali, MP for Birmingham Hall Green since 2019

Sir Keir’s office ordered all shadow ministers and junior parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) to stay away from the picket lines. Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar (above) snubs Starmer

Sir Keir’s office ordered all shadow ministers and junior parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs) to stay away from the picket lines. Scottish Labour’s Anas Sarwar (above) snubs Starmer

Sir Keir did not tweet about the strike yesterday, and is thought to be waiting until after the end of the industrial action to make a decision on disciplinary action.

Asked whether individuals would be punished, Labour’s shadow Treasury minister Pat McFadden told Sky News: ‘That’s a matter for the whips and for Keir Starmer.’

Referring to the Scottish Labour leader, Miss Abbott tweeted: ‘What is Keir Starmer going to do, remove Anas as leader?’ Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: ‘The Labour Party was founded by the trade unions and we expect Labour MPs to defend workers, by words and by actions. To instruct Labour MPs not to be on picket lines with workers speaks volumes.’

Most of the Labour MPs who have been pictured on the picket lines are members of the hard-Left Socialist Campaign Group.

They include former shadow cabinet members under Mr Corbyn, including Miss Abbott, Mr Burgon, Mrs Long-Bailey, Clive Lewis, Mr McDonnell, Dan Carden, Andy McDonald and Ian Lavery.

The list also includes Tahir Ali, Ian Byrne, Kim Johnson, Zarah Sultana, Rachael Maskell, Mr Mearns, Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Beth Winter, Mick Whitley, Nadia Whittome, Margaret Greenwood and Mohammad Yasin. Including the members of Sir Keir’s frontbench team, that brings the total to 25.

Miss Winter, Miss Whittome and Mr Byrne did not receive any union money. It is unclear if another three were given cash.

Back to e-lessons

Pupils were forced to return to pandemic-style online learning yesterday as rail and Tube strikes stopped teachers getting to work.

Among institutions hit was Marylebone Boys’ School in central London which closed its doors to all pupils except those taking exams because of staff shortages.

Meanwhile, there was chaos around the country for pupils sitting GCSE and A-level exams, with many having to find alternative transport.

Education chiefs told schools to consider reimbursing taxi fares.

Get a cab, jury told

An Old Bailey judge told jurors sitting on a murder trial that they may have to get taxis to court.

Judge Shani Barnes said the court would foot the bill for taxis ‘as a last resort’ so the trial did not have to be adjourned – but asked jurors to avoid using black cabs because they are ‘more expensive’. ‘If you can share cars that would be helpful,’ she added.

The jury had been hearing how Oliver Muldowney, 35, allegedly murdered 39-year-old Tim Hipperson in south-west London, which he denies. A separate Old Bailey murder trial was adjourned at least partly due to travel issues.

NHS struggles on

The NHS yesterday continued to offer appointments and perform operations but patients and staff reported difficulty getting to GP surgeries and hospitals.

Former rowing champion Graham Benton, 48, paid £165 for a taxi at 5.30am from Portsmouth to London for a heart operation. He said: ‘The hassle and cost of getting there has been very stressful.’

An NHS therapy manager said her hospital had converted some wards into dormitories for staff who struggled to travel to work.

Regions are cut off

Half of Britain’s rail lines were shut down by the strikes yesterday, leaving entire towns and cities across the country without train services.

Major transport hubs in Lancashire, Cheshire, Dorset and Cornwall, as well as in Wales and Scotland, had no services. Cities without trains included Bournemouth, Swansea, Holyhead, Chester, Blackpool and Penzance – and the disruption will continue tomorrow and Saturday.

The number of passenger services operating across the UK on the three strike days is expected to be around 4,500, compared with 20,000 normally.

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