Unite leader SHARON GRAHAM (right) marching with Coventry council strikers on the June 18 TUC demonstration

‘WE WILL defend our members against any and all attacks,’ Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham declared yesterday, in response to Tory Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s move to reverse a 40-year ban on agency workers being used to replace striking workers.

The RMT and Aslef railworkers’ unions also hit back at attacks made by Tory Transport Secretary Grant Shapps yesterday.

Graham denounced the new Tory legislation as ‘anti-worker, anti-union and designed to ruin industrial relations’.

She warned: ‘Attacking trade unions to prop up the Prime Minister will not tackle soaring inflation.

‘Profits not wages are driving price rises. Trying to sow division won’t solve the cost of living crisis and this political stunt should be treated with the disdain it deserves.

‘In recent months, Unite has won £50 million in pay rises for tens of thousands of workers, supported by the biggest strike fund in the country and union reps totally focused on defending and improving jobs, pay and conditions.

‘We will not be deterred from this path in any way, shape or form – and absolutely not by a government that time and again sides with the bad bosses over workers trying to get a fair deal.

‘We stand ready to defend our members against any and all attacks.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps appeared on BBC television to attack the railway workers unions, accusing them of defending ‘antiquated working practices’.

Shapps claimed: ‘We still have working practices which go back to the 50s and 60s and 70s. And that has to end. The strike can’t be resolved without those things ending.’

He went on: ‘If we want decently low fare rises, of course, we have to have the costs of the railway lower and that means running them more efficiently. And that’s all these working practices from the steam age that I’m afraid are time-expired.’

The RMT denounced Shapps for his ‘false’ accusations, saying: ‘Grant Shapps is talking nonsense and is completely ignorant of how the railways work, which is a major shortcoming for a transport secretary.’

Aslef General Secretary, Mick Whelan responded: ‘Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, is, I’m afraid, badly mistaken.

‘Now he either doesn’t know he is wrong, in which he case he is inept, or, at least, exceptionally badly briefed, or, if he does know that what he is saying is simply not true, then he is a liar,’ Whelan claimed.