UK’s biggest rail strike in 30 years brings nation to standstill

Britain is facing its biggest rail strikes in three decades after last-minute talks between a union and train companies failed to agree on pay.

Frustrated passengers in England, Scotland and Wales are dealing with severe disruption in what is the largest rail strike in 30 years as they scramble to find transport alternatives for their daily commutes.

Up to 40,000 staffers are staging a walkout on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week in a protest over pay and job security.

This week’s strike will shut down most of the UK’s rail network, bringing the country to a complete standstill. Only about 4,500 of the usual 20,000 daily services are expected to run.

The London Underground was also mostly closed due to a separate strike, leaving passengers chaotically looking for other modes of transport to get them into and around the city.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson long faced pressure to do more to help British households facing the toughest economic hit in decades amid the cost-of-living crisis.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in Bristol, England.
Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union begin their nationwide strike in Bristol, England.
AP

He said the rail strikes will heavily impact businesses as they continue to recover from the pandemic, claiming unions are “harming the very people they claim to be helping.”

“By going ahead with these rail strikes, they are driving away commuters who will ultimately support the jobs of rail workers, whilst also impacting businesses and communities across the country,” Johnson said Tuesday.

But unions claim the strikes are justified and could mark the start of a “summer of discontent” as a result of surging food and fuel prices pushing inflation toward 10 percent.

A man carries a placard near a union picket line on the first day of a national rail strike at Manchester Piccadilly Station in Manchester, Britain.
A man carries a placard near a union picket line on the first day of a national rail strike at Manchester Piccadilly Station in Manchester, Britain.
REUTERS

“Our campaign will run for as long as it needs to run,” Mick Lynch, secretary-general of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union, said Monday.

Unions say the government, which sets the rules for train companies, failed to give firms enough to offer a significant pay increase.

“The dead hand of this Tory government is all over this dispute,” Lynch added.

The RMT, which represents rail staffers, is calling for a pay raise of at least 7 percent.

Railway workers man a picket line at Liverpool Lime Street Station on June 21, 2022 amid the biggest rail strike in over 30 years to hit the UK.
Railway workers man a picket line at Liverpool Lime Street Station on June 21, 2022, amid the biggest rail strike in over 30 years to hit the UK.
AFP via Getty Images
A rail worker hands out leaflets during a strike outside the Waterloo Station, on the first day of national rail strike in London, Britain.
A rail worker hands out leaflets during a strike outside Waterloo Station, on the first day of the national rail strike in London, Britain.
REUTERS

The union said employers offered just 2 percent, with the possibility of 1 percent more but only if workers accept proposed job cuts.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government would change the law to force train operators to deliver a minimum service on strike days.

He said this will allow other workers to temporarily replace those staff who have walked out.

“What we will do in the future is we’ll make sure we’ve put in some additional protections in place for the traveling public, for example through minimal service levels,” he told Sky News.

Passengers walk under a news screen at Liverpool Lime Street Station during the rail strike.
Passengers walk under a news screen at Liverpool Lime Street Station during the rail strike.
AFP via Getty Images

“That would mean on a day like today, a certain level of service would still have to be run and through changes to allow for transferable workers, that’s a much quicker change we could take.”

“And there are a number of other technical changes we can make to union laws to make sure the public is always protected,” Shapps added.

Several airports scrapped flights in an attempt to reduce delays over the strike, meaning Brits going abroad now face rail and airline strikes at the same time.

With Post wires

Passengers queue for a bus outside the Waterloo Station, on the first day of national rail strike in London, Britain.
Passengers queue for a bus outside the Waterloo Station, on the first day of national rail strike in London, Britain.
REUTERS

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