Mick Lynch argues with BBC host over reporting on strikes
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The Prime Minister accused RMT union leader Mick Lynch of making hard-working and honest rail workers and border officers “foot soldiers” in a “class war”, claiming: “An increasing number want a deal.”
Rishi Sunak spoke out as last week’s rail strikes continue to wreak havoc on nationwide train services, meaning more car journeys than ever are expected on congested roads.
The disruptions to railway timetables and the onslaught of extra vehicles are set to create a nightmare week of travel hell in the run-up to Christmas Day.
Mr Sunak said: “The unions are causing misery for millions, with transport strikes in particular cruelly timed to hit outings at Christmas.
“Even Labour has admitted the unions’ demands are unaffordable. But they’ll still take union money and undermine the interests of the public.
“Labour backs the Grinches that want to steal Christmas for their own political ends.
“Rail workers and border officers have been offered deals that are fair and affordable to taxpayers.
“An increasing number of union members want a deal. They are tired of being foot soldiers in Lynch’s class war.”
Railways will shut down from 6pm on Christmas Eve until December 27 in a move that is set to add millions more to the number of car journeys people make to shops and family homes this week.
Some 20 million – roughly one third of the UK population – are set to take to the roads between today and Saturday.
Experts say capacity will be stretched to breaking point due to the RMT walkout.
Many commuters will give up travelling altogether this week, in a move blamed on strike action. The issue is also likely to hammer trade in the crucial pre-Christmas period.
Tens of thousands of rail workers staged strikes on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday last week as part of a long-running row over jobs, pay and conditions.
Saturday was the fourth day of industrial action and the 12th since the RMT voted to down tools in the summer. Further walkouts are planned in January. The strikes mean many operators will be forced to run a changed timetable this week due to the associated disruptions.
The chaos has forced Eurostar to cancel all 43 trains between London, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam scheduled to run on Boxing Day, despite none of its staff striking.
It means some 20,000 travellers who had hoped to travel between London and continental Europe have had their plans torpedoed.
Network Rail claimed the RMT was out to cause “as much Christmas misery as it could”, despite the union insisting Christmas action was designed to target engineering work and not passengers.
On the roads, the RAC predicts eight million journeys will be made on December 23 and 24 alone.
The worst congestion is expected between 10am and 7pm on Friday, and between noon and 1pm on Christmas Eve.
Transport analysts Inrix estimate that journey times will be almost one fifth longer compared to the same period last year.
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RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Our research suggests getaway traffic will build steadily all week, culminating in two frantic days of travelling just before Christmas itself.
“By Friday, we fear it will be a case of jams today and jams tomorrow on the roads as millions of people jump behind the wheel to see family and friends, with last-minute Christmas shoppers as well as the impact of another rail strike also leading to an increase in traffic.
“If possible, drivers should try to make their trips on a quieter day earlier this week if they can.”
Some five million people will leave the misery behind and head abroad for Christmas and New Year, according to travel association ABTA.
Analysis shows 640,000 are set to depart from Stansted, with around 500,000 leaving from Manchester.
Heathrow is expecting more than three million passengers, both arriving and departing, to travel through the airport in the last two weeks of the year. Meanwhile, 1,000 Border Force staff are out on strike for eight days between December 23 and New Year’s Eve with Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow, Heathrow and Manchester airports affected. Passengers are warned to expect severe delays.
The winter of discontent is further compounded by driving test examiners and Department for Work and Pensions employees striking today over pay.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union in Liverpool and Doncaster who are employed by the DWP will walk out until Christmas Eve, and again between December 29 and 31.
Driving examiners and local driving test managers working for the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will take action across north-west England and Yorkshire and Humber in a programme of rolling regional walkouts.
And workers at National Highways will escalate action across England and Wales over the next few weeks.
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