Sunak: Labour must tell 'union paymasters' to axe Christmas strikes

Rishi Sunak demands Labour get its ‘union paymasters’ to call off waves of strikes and save Christmas for millions of families as he clashes with Keir Starmer over the state of the economy at Prime Minister’s Questions

  • PM urged Sir Keir to call his ‘union paymasters’ and get them to scrap rail strike
  • RMT has announced four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7
  • Strikes will cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds during recession

Rishi Sunak tore into Labour today over trade union strike action set to cripple the country in the run-up to Christmas. 

Mr Sunak urged rival Sir Keir Starmer to call his ‘union paymasters’ and get them to scrap a walk out by rail workers in late December and January. 

It came as they clashed over the state of the economy at Prime Minister’s Questions this afternoon.

The strikes will cost the economy hundreds of millions of pounds when the UK is already in recession, with shopping trips cancelled, parties axed along with festive trips to pantomimes and shows also under threat.  

Sir Keir kicked off PMQs by pressing the PM about why Britain faces the lowest growth of any OECD nation over the next two years.

The Opposition Leader said: ‘Britain faces the lowest growth of any OECD nation over the next two years. Why?’

A lively Mr Sunak replied: ‘This country has experienced, since 2010, the third-highest growth in the G7. This year, the fastest growth in the G7 and unemployment at a multi-decade low.

‘We are getting on to deliver more growth, we are delivering free ports, we are investing in apprenticeships, we are protecting R&D.

‘If the Labour Party is serious about actually supporting growth, maybe they should get on the phone with their union paymasters and tell them to call off the strikes.’

Mr Sunak urged rival Sir Keir Starmer to call his ‘union paymasters’ and get them to call off walk out by rail workers in late December and January.

More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will walk out on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

Sir Keir kicked off PMQs by pressing the PM about why Britain faces the lowest growth of any OECD nation over the next two years.

Sir Keir replied: ‘There’s only one party that’s crashed the economy and they’re sitting there.

‘He won’t say why Britain is set to be first into a recession and the last out, so I will. Twelve years of Tory failure followed by 12 weeks of Tory chaos. For a decade they’ve let our economy drift aimlessly before suddenly cutting the parachute ropes and slamming it to the ground.

‘Because of changes he’s made a typical household will end up with tax increases of £1,400 … contrast that to a super wealthy non-dom living here, but holding their income overseas. How much more has he asked them to pay?’

The RMT yesterday announced four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7, forcing many revellers to cancel parties and shoppers to stay at home instead.

There will also be a ban on overtime working from December 18 to January 2. This will hit services on Sundays and other key dates such as Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve, when many travel to be with loved-ones and friends.

The British economy will lose hundreds of millions of pounds when the UK is already in recession, with shopping trips cancelled, parties axed along with festive trips to pantomimes and shows also under threat.

The carefully chosen dates will disrupt people going out to watch the final week of the World Cup, as well as Friday December 16, known as ‘Black Eye Friday’ because it is the busiest night of drinking before Christmas. After Christmas the return to work and school will also be hit by four strike dates in January.

RMT boss Mick Lynch (pictured on GMB today)  has denied he is ‘Mick Grinch’ when confronted about the scale of misery the walkouts would inflict

RMT boss Mick Lynch denied he was ‘Mick Grinch’ when confronted about the scale of misery the walkouts would inflict. He said: ‘I’m not the Grinch, I’m a trade union official and I’m determined to get a deal.’ Today he denied that he doesn’t care about the British public or that he is ‘holding the country to ransom’.

He added: ‘We don’t want to be painted as miseries, and grinches and all the rest of the cliches people throw at us.

‘We don’t want to put anyone out of business. We want the country to be prosperous. We want our people to make a decent living. We’ve been careful not to put any strike on during the Christmas period. Our strike finishes on December 17. That gives people a full week for people to make their preparations for travelling home, it gives a full week for the preparations for Christmas and we won’t strike again until the new year.’

But he promised to ‘coordinate’ strike dates with other union chiefs to shut down Britain, with nurses, civil servants and postal workers having also voted in favour of walkouts. Teachers are still being balloted.

Britain is already facing a winter of discontent with civil servants, transport workers and even nurses deciding to take industrial action for the first time in more than a century.

Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality said the strikes announced by the RMT yesterday would ‘deal a hammer blow to hard-pressed hospitality businesses in city centres across the UK’. Ms Nicholls said strikes in June cost £500million-a-week to hospitality – so the figure for the busiest week of the year will likely be higher.

She said yet more strikes are ‘catastrophically bad for hospitality workers, customers and businesses – the biggest trading week of the year and vital to securing viability for many businesses after the years of turmoil. Will cost the sector millions. Vital all sides come to the table to resolve and avert’.

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