UK PM Rishi Sunak uses troops to manage Christmas strikes
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday chastised unions for their “particularly cruelly timed” strikes during the Christmas holiday season, saying they had left millions of people in need. The government also announced plans to deploy about 1,200 soldiers to cover the striking workers and maintain essential services.
Over the coming weeks there will be a spate of winter strikes involving train workers, health workers and border guards, all demanding improved compensation and working conditions.
Sunak wrote in The Sun on Sunday that workers had been offered “fair and affordable deals” and accused the unions of unleashing a “class struggle”.
“The unions are bringing misery to millions, particularly transport strikes cruelly centered on Christmas,” Sunak writes.
“Railway workers and border guards have been offered fair deals that are affordable for the taxpayer. More and more union members want an agreement. They’re tired of being foot soldiers [Railway RMT Union chief] Mick Lynch’s class struggle,” he said.
The government has frequently warned against giving in to union demands for significant wage increases, as doing so would push Britain into an “inflationary spiral” that would disproportionately hit the poorest.
“Also [Opposition] Labor has admitted the unions’ demands are prohibitive. But they will still take union money and undermine the interests of the traveling public. Work back the grinches who want to steal Christmas for their own political ends. We’re doing everything we can to make sure people get the Christmas they deserve,” Sunak said.
“The army is strengthening and we are taking other measures to keep the service going where possible,” he added.
Union leaders warn that the military is not “adequately prepared” to protect the country’s borders or operate ambulances, and that they already have “enough on their plate” to prevent them from getting into such a “vicious” situation .
Stephen Kinnock, the opposition Labor Secretary for Immigration, told Sky News that the government was “intent for a fight” with the unions and called the Prime Minister’s words “inflammatory”.
“I think the government needs to stop all the rhetoric, the empty posturing and the sowing of division and actually needs to start finding a constructive solution now so that we can get people back to work in a way that makes them feel valued and where they are believe there’s a real future for them in those jobs,” Kinnock said.
If ministers don’t find a solution within 48 hours of next week’s strike, nurses are threatening a second round of strikes on a much larger scale in the new year.
The 48-hour countdown begins after the second unprecedented round of strikes by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on Tuesday.
(With contributions from agencies)