British railway workers launch their biggest strike in 30 years
One out of two lines closed and four out of five trains cancelled: British railway workers begin a three-day strike for jobs and wages on Tuesday, announced as the biggest walkout in thirty years.
The RMT union had indicated in early June that more than 50,000 railway employees were going to stop work “during the biggest sectoral conflict since 1989” and the major privatizations of the sector, demanding in particular wage increases in line with galloping inflation.
In addition to wages, RMT denounces the deterioration of working conditions and “thousands of redundancies” planned, according to him, by the myriad of private railway companies that make up the sector in the United Kingdom.
Tuesday will be the biggest day of mobilization, while London Underground employees are also called to strike and TfL, the capital’s transport operator, calls to avoid traveling that day.
The strike will continue on Thursday and Saturday, but disruption will be felt every day until Sunday, TfL warns.
For Britons, this will add to the chaos at airports in recent weeks, marked by long queues and hundreds of flight cancellations, as the sector struggles to recruit amid the recovery in demand after the lifting of health restrictions.
– Risks on Glastonbury –
The government is due to meet on Tuesday. “Unions harm those they claim to help,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement, calling for “a reasonable compromise for the good of the British people and rail workers.”
As the strike approached, the executive had continued to call on unions and companies to continue negotiations, but these failed at the end of the day on Monday, RMT deeming the proposals made by the employers “unacceptable”.
The strike movement “will bring suffering and chaos to millions of users”, lamented the Minister for Transport, Grant Shapps, before Parliament, criticized by both the unions and the Labor opposition for not not be sitting at the negotiating table himself.
But “during such discussions, it is always up to the employer and the unions to meet and negotiate” and the government “is not the employer”, retorted Mr. Shapps, who also said he wanted to introduce in British legislation a minimum service in the event of a social movement.
Since last week, the executive has been repeating that this strike will hurt the countless Britons prevented from going to work or medical appointments.
This walkout also threatens to disrupt major sporting and cultural events, such as the Glastonbury Music Festival (south-west of England), a Rolling Stones concert in London on Saturday and the final exams of some high school students.
The government says unions are shooting themselves in the foot as the rail sector, which has benefited from £16billion in grants to help it deal with plummeting revenues during the pandemic, risks seeing passenger numbers take a long-term step back in the face of the development of teleworking.
The TUC trade union federation accused the government on Monday of “stirring up tensions”, citing in particular the idea put forward last week by Grant Shapps to authorize the use of temporary workers to replace striking employees if the movement were to drag on. .
The strike could indeed extend to other modes of transport, in particular buses, and last beyond this first week of strike, while other transport unions have called on their members to decide on a walkout. .
The movement could even spread to other sectors such as education, health, the post office, or even lawyers: the criminal bar association announced on Monday that its members had voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike next week.