MILITANT rail unions declared war on Britain last night by threatening to stage crippling strikes for months to come.
The country will grind to a halt today as the RMT launches the biggest walkout since the 1980s.
Half the railway network will be shut and roads will be gridlocked.
Furious ministers have accused union barons of inflicting “misery and chaos” on millions with their “callous” three-day action.
Patients will be unable to get to hospital, teens will miss their GCSEs and Glastonbury will be wrecked for many.
Boris Johnson will tell his Cabinet today they have to face down hardline unions or risk wrecking the economy.
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Speaking last night he said: “The unions are harming the very people they claim to be helping.
“By going ahead with these rail strikes, they are driving away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers, whilst also impacting businesses and communities across the country.”
The PM also declared: “I want to be clear – we are not loading higher fares on passengers to carry on paying for working practices that date back in some cases to the 19th century.“
In a speech yesterday afternoon, RMT boss ‘Mad Mick’ Lynch warned the misery has only just begun.
He said the rail strike will go on “as long as it needs to” until bosses cave to his eye-watering pay demands.
In a call to arms to his 40,000-strong army of members, he added: “We call on our members to stand firm, support the action and mount the pickets.”
Britain should brace itself for a “wave” of strikes across the entire economy, he said – fuelling fears we are heading for 1970s style industrial unrest.
He thundered: “The dead hand of this Tory Government is all over this dispute.
“And the fingerprints of Grant Shapps and the DNA of Rishi Sunak are all over the problems on the railway and indeed the problems in this society.
“And until they allow these employers to negotiate freely, I can’t see that we are going to get a settlement to the issues that are in front of us.”
Speakng in London, Lynch vowed to carry on inflicting misery on the nation for months to come.
He raged: “Our campaign will run as long as it needs to run until we get a settlement acceptable to our people.
“Whenever we get an offer that is tenable we will put that to our members in a referendum.”
He predicted: “I think there is going to be a wave of industrial action, a wave of ballots and awave of campaigning.”
Teachers, doctors, nurses and posties are among those threatening strikes.
Transport Secretary Mr Shapps accused a cabal of union chiefs of plunging the nation into 1970s-style unrest.
Speaking during an urgent statement in Parliament on the chaos, he fumed: “We are now less than eight hours away from the biggest railway strike since 1989.
“A strike orchestrated by some of the best-paid union barons representing some of the better-paid workers in this country, which will cause misery and chaos to millions of commuters.
“This weekend we’ve seen union leaders use all the tricks in the book to confuse, obfuscate, to mislead the public.
“Not only do they wish to drag the railway back to the 1970s, they’re also employing the tactics of bygone unions too.”
He hit back at union bosses who have accused him of effectively kneecapping the talks by refusing to join the negotiating table.
And he he slammed Labour for pocketing a massive £100million from their union paymasters over the past decade.
Hardline union chiefs pulled the plug on last ditch talks to avert the strike early yesterday afternoon.
They turned down offers to increase railway workers’ pay by two per cent now and another one per cent in six months time.
The RMT are demanding inflation level pay rises.
This is set to hit 11 per cent by Christmas.
Railway negotiators looked “ashen faced” as they left the negotiating table, a source close to the talks told HOAR.
They added: “I am really not sure if there is a landing zone on pay — at the moment it doesn’t even look as if the plane has any wheels.”
Railways received a £16billion taxpayer bailout during Covid — £160,000 for every railway worker.
Not a single employee had to be furloughed.
But passenger numbers have plunged by 20 per cent because of home working.
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Ministers are rushing through new legislation to clip the wings of powerful union chiefs.
A Bill to let agency workers cover for strikers is expected to be tabled in days.