British railway workers begin their biggest strike in 30 years

One out of two lines closed and four out of five trains eliminated: British railway workers begin a three-day strike for jobs and wages on Tuesday, June 21, announced as the biggest walkout in thirty years.

The RMT union had announced in early June that more than 50,000 railway workers would stop work “during the biggest sectoral conflict since 1989” and the major privatizations of the sector, calling in particular for wage increases in line with galloping inflation.

In addition to wages, RMT denounces the deterioration of working conditions and “thousands of layoffs” planned, he said, by the myriad of private rail companies that make up the industry in the UK.

Tuesday will be the biggest day of mobilization, while London Underground employees are also called to disengage, 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 the British, 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 in the face of the resumption of the request after the lifting of sanitary restrictions.

Negotiations failed

The government is due to meet on Tuesday. “Unions harm those they claim to help”judged the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in a statement, calling for finding “a reasonable compromise for the good of the British people and railway 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 judging “unacceptable” proposals made by employers.

The strike movement “will bring suffering and chaos to millions of users”reacted, before Parliament, the Minister of Transport, Grant Shapps, criticized both by the unions and by the Labor opposition for not having himself sat down at the negotiating table.

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 into British legislation a minimum service in the event of a social movement.

Towards an extended strike?

Since last week, the executive has been repeating that this strike will hurt the countless Britons prevented from going to work or medical appointments. The walkout also threatens to disrupt major sporting and cultural events, such as the Glastonbury Music Festival, 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 telework.

The TUC trade union federation on Monday accused the government of“stir 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, in fact, extend to other modes of transport, in particular buses, and last beyond this first week of the 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.

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The World with AFP


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