Stop ‘sowing chaos and division’ in dispute over rail strikes, Rachel Reeves urges No 10

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Labour’s shadow chancellor has opposed plans to replace striking rail workers with agency staff, and accused the Government of acting like “arsonists” by escalating tensions with trade unions.

Rachel Reeves said she did not “want to see strikes” and called on the Government to work with industry instead of “sowing chaos, sowing division”.

It comes after Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, revealed in The Telegraph that 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 Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers’ (RMT) union has said it will “shut down” the country’s railway network on June 21, 23 and 25 after talks over pay and redundancies fell through – in what union leaders say will amount to the “biggest rail strike in modern history”. More than 40,000 staff at Network Rail and 13 train operators are expected to strike.

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.

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.

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