A rail union leader has warned that new anti-strike laws the government intends to introduce could lead to “longer strife and a different form of action”.
Aslef boss Mick Whelan told Sky News “there will be a knock on effect” from any new rules which are put in place by the ministers around striking.
“We’re currently – with 11 other trade unions – taking legal action against the last set of laws they put in place, and we would look at doing that in future as well,” Mr Whelan warned.
“And I think if the government gets away with what it’s doing, we’ll be left with an inherently unsafe railway system.”
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Mr Whelan added: “We already have the most draconian and authoritarian strike laws and trade union laws in Europe.”
He said minimum strike levels that have been introduced in European countries were “unworkable” and said it would be “difficult to see” how people who “legitimately, legally” can be on strike can be stopped from taking industrial action.
“But we’ll look at the detail of those laws if we have to comply with them, we will,” Mr Whelan added.
Sky News understands Rishi Sunak is set to announce legislation to enforce “minimum service levels” in six sectors in the coming days.
The laws will require a proportion of union members to continue working to retain a “minimum level” of service.
The six sectors involved are believed to be: the health service, railways, education, fire services, border security and nuclear energy.
Strikes could be deemed illegal if unions refused to provide the minimum level.
Yesterday, the prime minister insisted that his door is always openadding: “You’ll hear more from the government in the coming days about our approach.”
And while Mr Sunak said people should have the right to strike, he warned: “That has to be balanced with the right of the British public to go about their lives without suffering undue disruption in the way we’ve seen recently.”
it comes as more rail strikes take place across the UK today as drivers begin a new walkout – meaning some areas will have no trains at all.
Find out which areas area affected by the fresh strikes
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Although 48 hours of industrial action by the RMT union has now come to an end, members of the Aslef union are now striking as part of a long-running dispute over pay.
Drivers at 15 rail companies are involved and it is estimated that just 20% of normal services will run.
Further strikes are looming, with the RMT set to stage another 48-hour strike on Friday and Saturday.
But Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, told Sky News “we’re closer than we’ve been in a long time” to a deal with the RMT.
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New TUC leader Paul Nowak has written to the PM calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the industrial disputes including those on the railways, in the NHS and the civil service and called for a change in government direction, saying ministers should open pay negotiations with unions .
In the letter, Mr Nowak said public services were in crisis after years of “underfunding and understaffing”.