The union general secretary’s comments on the government’s new anti-striking laws were described as ‘73 seconds of pure gold.’

As the fall-out over pay and conditions remains unresolved, the RMT general secretary has been in the media spotlight again this week, and, as usual, he hasn’t disappointed.

Here’s the best Mick Lynch moments of the week.

A ‘rousing speech’ to a full house in a Wigan pub

On January 11, the general secretary of the RMT gave what has been described as a ‘rousing speech’ to a packed pub in Wigan, Greater Manchester. The meeting was hosted by the Wigan RMT and supported by Wigan Trades Council.

Lynch spoke about the ongoing industrial action in the different industries, while sharing personal experiences with the various services, including being the ‘proud’ son of a cleaner and postal worker.

 “This is the fight of our generation, and it is the fight of our lives and it is the fight of our class and it is up to our class to deliver change, to deliver a change in the way we think, a change in the way we act and a change in what we achieve,” he said to a rapturous applause.

Mick makes a Tory MP look utterly clueless

During questions at a Select Committee this week, Lynch left a Tory MP hesitating and looking naïve and poorly prepared. The RMT general secretary was joined by acting TSSA head Frank Ward and Aslef boss Mick Whelan. The panel took questions from MPs about the strikes and the anti-strike bill.

Greg Smith, the Conservative MP for Buckingham, said:

“Surely you must agree that by making the railway uncertain in its operation from the eyes of the consumer, the people who pay,” to which Lynch interrupted with, “are you talking about when we’re on striking on when we’re not on strike?”

“When you’re on strike,” Smith replied.

“What about the days when we’re not on strike, when it’s absolutely useless as well,” Lynch asked.

After a hesitant pause, the MP said: “That’s a whole other evidence session.

“No, it’s not,” said Lynch, adding: “Since the timetable change that came 11 years ago, the whole thing has been a disaster.”

After some further debate and uncertain probing from Smith, the RMT general secretary said: “I think it’s your government’s fault, is my answer when you get there.”

“Are strikes driving people away from the railway,” the MP asked in one last probe, to which Lynch conclusively replied:

“No, you are. Your government.”

Footage of the interview soon went viral, with many sharing their respect at Lynch’s responses.

“Well done, Mick, Tories don’t want to acknowledge the mess they have made of everything,” tweeted one viewer.  

Government ‘wanted’ rail strikes to go ahead

During the same Select Committee, Lynch claimed that the government wanted the Christmas rail strikes to take place and that they deliberately “sabotaged” talks. He said the government’s response to pay demands had been “choreographed.”

“The whole thing has been prearranged, it’s almost as if there’s been some kind of stage director running this dispute.

“That’s why we couldn’t make any progress before Christmas. Even though I know the companies wanted to, they wanted to come to us with developed proposals, but they were not allowed to by the Department for Transport.

“If anyone says that’s not the case, they are not telling you the truth. I’ll put that on the record, they have stopped the development of proposals deliberately at every stage in this dispute,” said Lynch.

An ‘infringement of civil liberties’

The Select Committee also saw the union general secretary condemn the government’s new anti-strike legislation that could lead to striking workers getting the sack and the government setting “minimum service levels” for industries to follow to minimise disruption.

Speaking about the contentious legislation, he said: “It tickles me that they will put non-qualified people into signal boxes to break strikes and they’ll have safety incidents which they have every time they have a strike… but it’s the unions that are endangering safety, it’s the attempt to break the strikes that imports more danger than anything else, and it’s an infringement of civil liberties.

“The right to strike is something that any democratic society will have. If they want to run the signalling system on Network Rail during a dispute in the way that they they’ll have to get all the signallers to work and they’ll command them and conscript them to work.

“If they were doing that in Putin’s Russia, or in Iran or China they would rightly be condemned. Conscripting workers to go to work against their will is an outrage and that’s what this legislation will bring forward, that either we will name them, or the companies will name them, or even the secretary of state may name individuals that have to go to work on strike days,” the trade unionist continued.

Lynch’s comments on the government’s new anti-striking laws were described as “73 seconds of pure gold.”

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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