RMT chief Mick Lynch mocked Kay Burley this morning after she quizzed him about rail strikes in a heated Sky News interview.
More than 50,000 union members have walked out over demands for an 11 per cent pay rise as millions battled into work, were forced to work from home or unable to earn money at all this week in a £ 100million-plus hammer blow to the already creaking economy.
The RMT union has been accused of ‘punishing millions of innocent people’ by pressing ahead with the walkouts, despite rail bosses offering workers a pay rise of at least 3 per cent – the same given last year to NHS staff who battled the Covid-19 crisis. They want an 11 per cent rise to match inflation levels.
Today its militant left-wing leader Mr Lynch laughed at Burley and said her ‘questions are verging on the nonsense’ in an on-air Sky News interview amid agency workers being brought in by ministers to help with the travel crisis.
Speaking from London’s Waterloo station, Burley asked: ‘The government are saying they are going to bring in agency workers. My question to you is, I’m guessing some of your members will still stay on the picket lines, what will they do if agency workers try to cross those picket lines? ‘
Mr Lynch, 60, chuckled and added: ‘Well we will picket them, what do you think we’ll do? We’re in a picket line and we’ll ask them not to go to work. Do you not know how a picket line works? ‘
EUSTON STATION: RMT Union boss Mick Lynch on the picket as he vowed to shut down transport in every town and city over pay
BRISTOL: Union members wave RMT flags and banners as they walked out over pay
NOTTINGHAM: RMT strikers hold up their banner that claims they are walking out to defend the railways
NOTTINGHAM: One striker held a copy of the Socialist Worker, which claims winning the strike would be a win over the Tories
Burley, 61, interjected: ‘I very much know how a picket line works, I’m much older than I look, Mr Lynch. What will picketing involve? ‘
Turning to striking workers behind him who were lined up against a deserted Euston Station, Mr Lynch smiled and said: ‘You can see what picketing involves. I can’t believe this line of questioning.
‘Picketing is standing outside the workplace to try and encourage people who want to go to work, not to go to work. What else do you think it involves? ‘
Burley added: ‘I just wondered what else it might involve because… I very well remember the picket lines of the 1980s.’
Mr Lynch interrupted: ‘Where are you going? Which picket lines are you talking about?
Burley replied: ‘Mr Lynch, I’m asking… The miners strikes’.
Mr Lynch mocked: ‘Well does it look like the miners strike. What are you talking about?
Militant left-wing leader Mr Lynch laughed at Burley and said her ‘questions are verging on the nonsense’ in an on-air Sky News interview amid agency workers being brought in by ministers to help with the travel crisis
VICTORIA: London’s second busiest station, serving South London and Sussex including Gatwick, was also deserted today
WATERLOO: A few commuters stand under the world famous clock at Waterloo today as industrial action crippled the railways
‘You seem to have gone off into a world that isn’t real.’
Burley added: ” I’m sorry that you feel the need to ridicule me, I’m just asking you what you expect your members to do if agency workers… ‘
Interjecting again, Mr Lynch added: ‘Your questions are verging into the nonsense. We run a picket as effectively as we can. ‘
‘And what does that involve’, Burley probed.
Mr Lynch turned again to the protesting picket line behind him and mocked: ‘Well, look – there it is. That’s what it involves. ‘
Burley asked: ‘You won’t stop agency workers crossing the picket line?’
‘We will try to stop agency workers crossing the picket line by asking them not to go to work – what is it you’re suggesting we will do?’ Mr Lynch replied.
KINGS CROSS: A LNER train sits on the empty platform of Kings Cross station in London this morning on the first day of the worst strike in 30 years today
WEST LONDON: Long queues on the A40 at Perivale in West London on the first day of national rail strikes. The last time the congestion in London was at the levels seen today was during the last RMT strike on March 1
Burley stated: ‘I’m asking you and trying to clarify for the benefit of the British public who are being stopped from traveling across the country Mr Lynch. I’ve asked politely. Thank you for not wanting to answer the question. ‘
‘What is it you’re trying to clarify?’ Mr Lynch said, ‘I’m replying to you politely. I’ve answered the question about six times. ‘
Burley finished: ‘Okay but not to my satisfaction. I’m asking questions on behalf of my viewers this morning Mr Lynch. I’m very sorry if you find it offensive. ‘
Following the heated exchange, the presenter posted the short clip on her Twitter and captioned the clip: ‘Agency rail workers will be stopped at picket lines and asked not to cross. RMT union’s General Secretary Mick Lynch got a little flustered explaining why… ‘
It comes as Transport for London and Network Rail’s websites crashed under the weight of traffic this morning as people desperately tried to find a route to get to work or school.
The rail industry will also take a £ 150million hit at a time when pre-pandemic passenger numbers are yet to return. The taxpayer has also pumped in £ 16billion to keep the network going through the pandemic. The walkouts will hinder millions trying to get to work, stop patients attending vital health appointments and inflict undue stress on students sitting exams.
The scale of strikes has not been seen for decades and are already set to last for months
LONDON BRIDGE: Huge queues as people waited for a bus to work as Tube and rail services were axed
Boris Johnson warned train passengers they must ‘stay the course’ in the face of the ‘unnecessary aggravation’ caused by rail strikes.
The Prime Minister told a meeting of the Cabinet that reforms are vital for the rail industry and those who work in it.
Millions of people are suffering disruption as only a fifth of the trains are running on Tuesday and half of the lines are closed.
Services are generally restricted to main lines, but even those are only open between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
Around 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union at Network Rail and 13 train operators have walked out in a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
Mr Johnson said: ‘I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course.
‘To stay the course, because these reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the traveling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.’