The biggest railway strike in the last 30 years is bringing the UK to a standstill

The biggest railway strike in the last 30 years is bringing the UK to a standstill

  • More than 40,000 railway workers will go on strike
  • Government under pressure over cost of living crisis
  • Unions say strike could start “summer of discontent”

LONDON, June 21 (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest rail strike in 30 years began on Tuesday as tens of thousands of workers left a wage and job dispute that could pave the way for widespread industrial action across the economy in the coming months.

Some of the more than 40,000 railroad workers who will strike on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday have gathered on the lines since dawn, leaving the network at a standstill and the main stations abandoned. The London Underground has also been largely closed due to a separate strike.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under pressure to do more to help British households facing the worst economic blow in decades, said industrial action would harm businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic.

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The unions said rail strikes could mark the beginning of a “summer of discontent” with teachers, medics, waste disposal workers and even lawyers moving towards industrial action as rising food and fuel prices push inflation 10% up. More

“A British worker needs a salary increase,” Mick Lynch, secretary general of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Services (RMT), told Sky News.

“They need job security, decent conditions and a fair deal in general, if we can achieve that we will not have to have the disruption in the British economy that we have now and that could develop over the summer.

Johnson said the unions were harming people they claimed were helping.

“By continuing these strikes on the railways, they are forcing passengers to work, which ultimately supports the work of railway workers, and also affects businesses and communities across the country,” he told his office on Tuesday, according to his office.

The government has faced criticism from opposition lawmakers for refusing to get involved in dispute settlement negotiations. Ministers say it is up to the unions to work directly with railway employers.

A survey conducted by YouGov pollsters earlier this month showed that public opinion on the strikes was divided, with about half of those polled opposing the action and just over a third saying they supported it.

Leo Rudolf, a 36-year-old lawyer who walked to work, said he would be more dissatisfied the longer the dispute lasted.

“This isn’t going to be an isolated phenomenon, is it?” he told Reuters. “I’m sure I’ll be more and more frustrated every time this happens.”

DESTRUCTIVE INFLATION

The British economy initially recovered strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic, but the combination of labor shortages, supply chain disruptions, inflation and trade problems after Brexit sparked warnings of recession.

The government says it is giving additional support to millions of the poorest households, but says raising wages above inflation would damage the fundamentals of the economy.

“Sustainable higher levels of inflation would have a far greater impact on people’s wages in the long run, destroying savings and prolonging the difficulties we face for longer,” Johnson said.

The outbreak of industrial action was compared to the 1970s, when Britain faced widespread workers’ strikes, including the “winter of discontent” of 1978-79. More

The number of British union members has roughly halved since the 1970s, and departures have been much rarer, in part because of changes by former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to limit union powers and make it harder to call a strike. .

Transport Minister Grant Shaps said the government would change the law as soon as possible to force operators to provide minimal service on strike days and allow other workers to temporarily replace those staff who left.

“We will take steps to ensure that things like this are less harmful in the future,” he told Sky News.

The strikes are coming as passengers at British airports experience chaotic delays and last-minute cancellations due to staff shortages, while many Britons have to wait months for new passports to arrive due to processing delays.

The rail strike means that only about half of the British rail network will be open on strike days with very limited services on those lines and constant interruptions in the days between strike days.

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Editing: Edmund Blair, Kate Holton and Raisa Kasolowski

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