Rail strikes

Unions today moved to worsen and lengthen the upcoming rail strikes as members on CrossCountry, East Midlands and West Midlands trains were asked to walk out in action that could disrupt the Commonwealth Games.
The proposed industrial action by the TSSA, led by Manuel Cortes, would mean that disruption on Britain’s rail network planned for the end of June would also happen in July and into August.
Rail union TSSA has served notice to ballot hundreds more staff for strike action. They will vote next week for action in a dispute over pay, conditions and job security.
The union has warned strike action could take place on lines and at stations serving the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which runs from July 28 to August 8.
RMT strikes will already cripple services from June 21 to 26, London Underground will be affected by an RMT and Unite strike on June 21, while Aslef members on Hull Trains, Greater Anglia and the Croydon Tramlink will stage a series of walkouts between June 23 and July 14.
It came as Boris Johnson vowed not to ‘surrender’ to the rail unions as two more announced strike plots yesterday as part of a co-ordinated ‘summer of discontent’.

Agency workers could be brought in to break strikes under a “very fast” legal change being prepared by the Government in the face of a summer of chaos fuelled by “Marxist” barons, the Transport Secretary said.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Grant Shapps said ministers were drawing up legal changes that could take effect “during this particular dispute”, to protect the public from being “held to ransom” by strikes.
The planned changes are being worked on in addition to the Government’s plan to introduce separate laws requiring minimum numbers of rail staff to work during a strike, which were revealed by The Telegraph last month.
Mr Shapps is working with Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, whose officials are drawing up plans to remove a legal restriction introduced under Tony Blair that prevents employers hiring agency staff to carry out the work of staff on strike. Mr Shapps said the measures “would come in during this particular dispute, if it can’t be resolved”.c
The reversal, which was promised in David Cameron’s 2015 manifesto, would apply to all sectors – not just rail – in a move that is likely to significantly escalate a series of rows between ministers and trade unions.
On Friday, the British Medical Association (BMA) became the latest union to warn that unless its demands over pay are met, it will prepare for a strike ballot, while this week BT workers are to be balloted for what would be the first national strike at the former state-owned telecoms monopoly in 35 years.

AGENCY STAFF could be called in to replace striking workers to break in the Union strike, a news report has claimed.
More than 40,000 staff at Network Rail and 13 train operators are expected to walk off the job, in what the union has described as the “biggest rail strike in modern history”. Grant Shapps said ministers were drawing up legal changes that could take effect “during this particular dispute”, to protect the public from being “held to ransom” by strikes, the Telegraph stated.
The planned changes are being worked on in addition to the Government’s plan to introduce separate laws requiring minimum numbers of rail staff to work during a strike, which were revealed by the broadsheet last month.
Mr Shapps is working with Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, whose officials are drawing up plans to remove a legal restriction introduced under Tony Blair that prevents employers hiring agency staff to carry out the work of staff on strike.
Mr Shapps said the measures “would come in during this particular dispute, if it can’t be resolved”.

BBC News
The government is preparing to repeal a legal ban that prevents agency staff filling in for striking workers.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Sunday Telegraph a potential change in legislation could allow companies to hire temporary workers to cover some roles and prevent disruption.
Any intervention would not affect the rail strikes across Britain this month.
But Mr Shapps said changes could be brought in quickly to minimise future action in rail or other sectors.
A war of words between rail unions and ministers has been escalating since the RMT union announced three days of strikes, after talks about pay, terms and conditions, and redundancies fell through.
Mr Shapps said should the action continue then “further measures certainly would come in during this particular dispute, if it can’t be resolved”.
“We will be looking at the full suite of modernisation that’s required,” he told the Telegraph. “The country must not continue to be held to ransom.”
The transport secretary said any change could involve secondary legislation, which can be signed off by ministers “very fast”.

Boris Johnson is backing plans to rip up trade union laws that prohibit employers from breaking strike action by drafting in temporary workers.
Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, has been tasked with examining the proposal as union leaders prepare for a “summer of discontent” not seen since the 1926 General Strike, with industrial action expected to cause chaos on railways and roads and in airports.
Axing these restrictions, which could be done using secondary legislation, would make it easier for employers to provide limited emergency cover during strikes. Agency workers are unlikely to be able to fill skilled jobs, such as signal operators or train drivers, although it will give employers some flexibility to cover some roles.

Fuel prices

Drivers have been urged to ‘cut out shorter journeys’ by car as fuel prices continue to spiral, with one London filling station charging 249.9p for a litre of diesel – almost 67 pence above the national average.
The AA said motorists should ‘walk or cycle to save money’.
The average price of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts reached a new record of 183.2p on Thursday, according to data firm Experian.
That is an increase of 7.3p in just seven days.
The average cost of filling a typical 55-litre family car exceeded £100 for the first time on Wednesday.
The average price of a litre of diesel on Thursday was also a record, at 188.8p.
AA president Edmund King said: ‘This is the worst week of pump pain so far for drivers.
‘We would urge drivers at the moment to cut out shorter car journeys if they are able to do so, and walk or cycle to save money.
‘Almost one fifth of AA members are already doing this.

BBC News
Petrol prices hit record highs last week, with the cost of filling a typical family car passing £100.
Forecourt Eye, which works with 1,000 garages in the UK, said there was a 39% increase in non-payments since January.
These included motorists driving off without paying or claiming to have forgotten their wallet.
Nick Fisher, CEO of the digital debt recovery company that traces and track non-payers, said: “This is not a good thing for anyone as more theft is going on.”
He said forecourt theft had been rising month on month since Christmas, with a 19.5% spike in January and February, which he linked to the rising cost of fuel.
This was followed by another rise of 4.5% in March, 8% in April and a further 7% in May.
The soaring price of fuel is down to supply issues caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and a weak exchange rate between the US dollar and the UK’s sterling.
Mr Fisher said: “At the moment, we’re seeing a spike of people claiming to forget their wallets. Some people are trying to get away with it.
“Then there are people who fill up, they go buy a coffee and don’t pay for the fuel. And then there’s the others who put in £30 [of fuel] and just drive off.”
The British Oil Security Syndicate (BOSS) is a non-profit organisation that campaigns to reduce fuel crime on UK forecourts.

A MAJOR review of the fuel industry will be carried out to ensure motorists are not ripped off by predatory pricing.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has asked the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) to conduct an “urgent” investigation amid concerns that the 5p cut in fuel duty has not been passed on to customers at the pump.
The Government is alarmed by “wild fluctuations” in the prices at petrol stations only a short distance apart.
The average cost of filling up a car hit £100 last week. On Saturday, petrol cost on average 183.16p per litre and diesel 188.82p per litre.
A Whitehall source said: “We’re trying to keep as much of people’s hard-earned money in their back pocket as possible, but it’s frustrating that our £5billion fuel tax cut doesn’t seem to have been passed on everywhere – with prices always quick to go up but slow to come down. No one understands why the price for their fuel can be as much at 10p a litre dearer at the forecourt a village over, so we want drivers to be completely certain that the fuel retailers aren’t profiteering at their expense.”
The CMA will investigate the health of competition in the market and the Government is pushing for greater transparency about prices. An initial report is expected early next month.

The record increase in fuel prices could spark a mass exodus of staff who rely on their vehicles for work, trade unions and drivers have warned.
On Thursday, the price of a litre of unleaded petrol hit 182.31p, meaning the cost of filling an average family car hit £100 for the first time. Some employees who need to drive for their jobs are spending as much as £350 a week on fuel and others are “paying to go to work”.
The GMB trade union warned that the increase had “crushed” its members and said that shortfalls of staff in the transport and healthcare industries were “only going to get worse as prices continue to shoot up”.
One community NHS worker told the Observer that the fuel price rise had outstripped the reimbursement they were given for petrol costs, so staff were now paying not just to get to work, but also to drive to patients’ houses to do their job.
Tiffany, another community health worker, said fuel now made up the largest chunk of her spending every month – nearly £250 – only £171 of which was reimbursed by the NHS.


The number of calls for an ambulance in England have almost doubled since 2010, with warnings of record pressures on the NHS that are seeing A&E patients stuck in corridors and many paramedics quitting the job.
Ambulance calls have risen by 10 times more than the number of ambulance workers, according to a new analysis of NHS data. An increase in people seeking emergency treatment, GPs unable to cope with demand and cuts to preventive care are all being blamed for the figures.
The analysis, carried out by the GMB union, found that there were 7.9m calls in 2010-11. By 2021-22, however, the number had risen to 14m, an increase of 77%. Over the same period, the number of ambulance workers has risen by just 7%, heaping more pressure on staff.
While the figures represent all calls for an ambulance, some of which go unanswered and do not lead to a vehicle being sent, they reveal the increasing pressures that have led to claims that patient safety is being put at risk by ambulance waiting times. There has been a significant increase in the number of the most serious safety incidents logged by paramedics in England over the past year.

Rwanda flights

Campaigners and lawyers from Cherie Blair’s old chambers have lost a High Court bid to block the Government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda, paving the way for the first flight to go ahead on Tuesday.
Migrants due to be given a one-way ticket to the east African nation as part of Home Secretary Priti Patel’s bid to curb Channel crossings, as well as campaign groups and a union, had asked judges to block their upcoming deportation flight.
Judge Mr Justice Swift ruled against the claim and said: ‘I do not consider that the balance of convivence favours the grant of the generic relief.’
Home Secretary Priti Patel told MailOnline: ‘I welcome the court’s decision in our favour and will now continue to deliver on progressing our world-leading Migration Partnership.
‘People will continue to try and prevent their relocation through legal challenges and last-minute claims but we will not be deterred in breaking the deadly people smuggling trade and ultimately save lives.
‘Rwanda is a safe country and has previously been recognised for providing a safe haven for refugees – we will continue preparations for the first flight to Rwanda, alongside the range of other measures intended to reduce small boat crossings.’

BBC News
Campaigners against the government’s policy to send migrants to Rwanda say they will now take their fight to the Court of Appeal on Monday.
It comes after the High Court said the first flight to take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda could go ahead.
About 31 people have been told they could be on that flight on Tuesday, with more planes to go later this year.
The Prince of Wales has been caught up in the row after two papers reported he had called the policy “appalling”.
The Daily Mail and the Times both reported that sources had said Prince Charles had made private comments in which he expressed his “disappointment” over the plan.
The prince is travelling to the east African country later this month to represent the Queen at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting being held in the capital, Kigali.


Government divisions over tax cuts were laid bare on Saturday night with sources close to the Prime Minister clashing over demands for immediate action.
Responding to mounting calls from MPs and ministers for urgent tax cuts to tackle the cost of living and boost growth, one source told MPs to “grow up” and stop behaving like they were in “nursery school”.
The source close to Boris Johnson said: “This isn’t ‘the Government has had a s— week, we need a reset, cut taxes’. This isn’t nursery school. This is grown-up politics, this is government.
“Three weeks ago, the party was screaming that it wanted a big bung to the general public, and now they are screaming about tax cuts. We have got to get back to grown-up politics where things happen slowly, sustainably and when they are doable.”
The source insisted that, while there was “no Tory in the land more committed to tax cuts than Boris … the money isn’t there to cut taxes now”.
The intervention will heighten fears that Mr Johnson considers himself unable to act on his party’s demands for tax cuts because of opposition by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor.


Smoking rates are nearly eleven times higher in parts of England lagging most behind in the Government’s bold plan to eradicate the killer habit, MailOnline can reveal.
A quarter of adults are current smokers in Fenland in Cambridgeshire, the worst smoking rate in the nation.
For comparison, the rate stands at just 2.3 per cent in Ryedale, a rural area in North Yorkshire.
Our analysis comes after Health Secretary Sajid Javid was yesterday urged to adopt tougher anti-smoking policies, including one that recommended making lighting up in pub gardens illegal.
Other bold proposals included hiking the age limit for purchasing cigarettes in England by 12 months every year until no-one can legally buy tobacco products, prohibiting supermarkets from selling cigarettes and forcing TV shows and films featuring smoking scenes to be rated 18+.
Mr Javid is said to be ‘minded against’ accepting the most extreme recommendations, although he publicly said ministers would ‘carefully consider’ all 15 policies made in an independent review.


England’s Covid outbreak has risen in size for the first time since March, according to official figures that have prompted doom-mongering experts to warn the next wave is on its way.
Analysts at the Office for National Statistics, tasked with tracking the virus in the post-pandemic era, estimate 797,500 people were infected on June 2.
The figure – which suggests one in 70 people are currently infected – is up roughly 1.7 per cent on the previous projection and marks the first increase since before free testing was axed at the end of March. Back then, cases breached 4.1million — a pandemic high.
Separate NHS statistics show admissions are also rising, in another sign that the virus is bouncing back. Experts fear it could put more pressure on an already overwhelmed health service.
Despite the uptick sparking alarm in certain quarters, Boris Johnson pledged not to reinstate any economically-crippling restrictions when he made the decision to treat Covid like flu in the spring.
Statisticians believe the increase is due to the spread of BA.4 and BA.5, Omicron sub-variants thought to be even more infectious.
A similar increase in cases was observed in Northern Ireland, and while a rise in cases was also seen in Wales and Scotland the ONS described this as being ‘uncertain’.


VLADIMIR PUTIN has been dealt a significant blow as an entire battalion of troops refused to continue taking part in the war after suffering huge losses.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that members of a motor rifle brigade from the 1st Army Corps of the Russian Armed Forces refused after defeats in Kharkiv Oblast, in the east. This follows reports that Russian soldiers are attempting to set up “sham marriages” in order to get out of Ukraine. Analysts have claimed that Russian troops are “morally depressed” and could soon run out of combat-ready units.

Green agenda

Boris Johnson has scaled back plans to rewild the country as the government retreats from the green agenda to focus on the cost of living crisis.
Ministers last year announced a post-Brexit scheme that would pay farmers up to £800 million a year — a third of the farming budget — to transform agricultural land into nature-rich forests, coastal wetlands, peatlands and wildflower meadows.
But the fund, called the landscape recovery scheme, has been quietly slashed to just £50 million over three years, less than 1 per cent of the budget.

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