...By Larry John for TDPel Media.
Rail industry and union leaders have warned MPs that plans to legislate for minimum levels of service during rail strikes could cause “unintended consequences” of more conflict.
The Strike (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is set to be debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday.
The bill would require operators to run a minimum number of trains during a strike.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, warned that the law would spark “novel” forms of industrial action and that the government does not understand how the railways operate.
Jamie Burles, managing director of Abellio Greater Anglia, stressed that the industry wanted “absolute clarity” about the requirements on employers and workers.
Tom Joyner, managing director of Cross Country Trains, said that he had not lobbied the government for legislation on minimum levels of service.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak called for the government to abandon the bill in order to protect the right to strike.
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the train drivers’ union Aslef warned that the law would spark more strikes and other forms of industrial action.
The union leaders argued that a minimum level of service would raise expectations among passengers about how many trains would run during a strike.
Mr Lynch said that this would lead to anger when “inevitable chaos” prevented a minimum level of service being provided.
The MPs questioned industry and union leaders on the legislation currently going through Parliament.
Critical workers such as signallers and train drivers would be required to work even if they voted legally to strike, according to Mr Lynch.
He warned that industrial relations would be “poisoned” by the new law, with the prospect of large numbers of workers being sacked, leading to huge consequences for the rail industry.