Labour mayors argue cost-of-living crisis “forcing” people into industrial action

Katie Neame
© Dave Colman/Shutterstock.com

Labour metro mayors have argued that the cost-of-living crisis is “forcing” people into industrial disputes and that striking is in some instances the “only means working people have left to defend their livelihoods”.

Five Labour mayors published a statement today expressing support for the right of workers to take strike action “to protect jobs, safety, pensions, pay and conditions”. The mayors are urging employers to meet with trade unions to negotiate resolutions to the ongoing disputes.

The statement was released jointly by Liverpool City Region mayor Steve Rotheram, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough mayor Nik Johnson, South Yorkshire mayor Oliver Coppard and North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll.

In the statement, the mayors said many employers are “exemplary” and look after their workforce but added that this “doesn’t always happen”, highlighting a “worrying increase” in fire and rehire.

They argue: “No one wants to see strikes happening. But at times, the only means working people have left to defend their livelihoods is industrial action. We support the right to take action to protect jobs, safety, pensions, pay and conditions.”

“Paying a fair wage to the people who keep our country running isn’t too much ask. We urge employers to meet with trade unions and negotiate an end to these disputes,” the statement concluded.

Appearing on BBC One’s Sunday Morning over the weekend, Burnham said: “It’s absolutely right that workers should be protecting their incomes in a cost-of-living crisis. And that has got to be worked out with the government. Instead, they are relishing the prospect of strikes.

“They are trying to play the politics around this when instead they should be getting around the table, profession by profession, and sorting out a fair arrangement to take people through this year and obviously recognise the pay pressures they’re facing going forward.”

Keir Starmer was strongly criticised ahead of the recent rail strikes after it was reported that the Labour leader had banned frontbenchers from joining picket lines.

Asked whether he would join a picket line, the Labour mayor said you have to “judge these situations… as to what extent there is a principle at stake”, adding that where there is a principle at stake, he has “no problem in showing that support”.

But Burnham stressed that he was not saying Starmer’s stance on the strikes was wrong, telling viewers: “The Labour Party has shown support for workers in the current situation. People will have different views about picket lines and all of those issues, but I think they have done a good job in standing up for workers.”

Below is the full text of the metro mayors’ statement:

“As metro mayors we work every day with businesses to boost our regional economies. Our good work charters and good work pledges are supported by hundreds of enlightened employers covering tens of thousands of workers. Many employers are exemplary and look after their workforce.

“Sadly, this doesn’t always happen. We’ve seen a worrying increase in fire and rehire. No one wants to see strikes happening. But at times, the only means working people have left to defend their livelihoods is industrial action. We support the right to take action to protect jobs, safety, pensions, pay and conditions.

“The cost-of-living crisis is forcing an increasing number of people into industrial disputes. Rail workers, criminal barristers, airport check-in staff. And there could be many more, including teachers, doctors, other NHS staff, postal and telecoms workers. This affects everyone.

“Paying a fair wage to the people who keep our country running isn’t too much ask. We urge employers to meet with trade unions and negotiate an end to these disputes.”

Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester
Nik Johnson, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
Oliver Coppard, mayor of South Yorkshire
Jamie Driscoll, mayor of North of Tyne

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