AN EXPERT in employment law says that “government attempts to interfere with strike action are nothing new” ahead of planned action.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on June 21, 23 and 25.

The RMT also announced another 24-hour strike on London Underground in a separate row over jobs and pensions.

Tube workers will strike on June 21 to coincide with the first rail strike, threatening widespread travel chaos.

The union said it will be the biggest strike on the railways since 1989.

Simon Bellm is a partner in the employment team at the law firm DMH Stallard, which has offices across Sussex including in Brighton

He said: “Rail unions’ threats of a summer of discontent seem to have induced panic not only amongst commuters and the public but also within government. 

“Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, recently suggested that ministers are drawing up plans to legislate to provide for minimum levels of service during strikes to protect passengers, an idea which was included in the Conservative party’s 2019 manifesto.

“Government attempts to interfere with strike action are nothing new.  

“Those attempts typically aim to strike a balance between the rights of workers to use strike action as leverage over their employer and the interests of those employers and ultimately their customers. 

“Strict legislation relating to the holding of ballots and the provision of notice prior to industrial action governs the lawfulness of any strikes.

“The protection afforded to workers and trade unions who participate in strike action against dismissal or legal action for compensation depend on trade union compliance with those rules.  

“The rules are even stricter in the case of public services."

Union members voted overwhelmingly for action last month in growing rows over pay and job losses.

The RMT said rail staff who worked through the pandemic were facing pay freezes and hundreds of job cuts.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously.

“We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1 per cent and rising.

“Our union will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.

“Rail companies are making at least £500m a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This unfairness is fuelling our members' anger and their determination to win a fair settlement.

“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways.”

The union said more than 50,000 railway workers will walk out on June 21, adding that the action will affect the national railway network for the entire week.