Thousands march on UK railroad strike in 30 years as Johnson pledges to stand firm

  • More than 40,000 railroad workers are leaving
  • The government is under pressure from the cost of living crisis
  • Unions say strike could start a “summer of discontent”

LONDON, June 21 (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of workers marched on Tuesday, the first day of the UK’s largest railway strike in 30 years, and passengers were facing more chaos as both unions and government pledged to keep guns in line. to pay.

Some of the more than 40,000 railway workers who are due to strike on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday have been gathering at picket lines since dawn, causing major disruptions to the network and leaving the main stations deserted. The London Underground was also closed mainly due to an independent strike.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under pressure to do more to help the British facing the toughest economic impact in decades, said the strike would hurt companies still recovering from COVID.

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Unions have said rail strikes could mark the start of a “summer of discontent” with teachers, doctors, waste disposal workers and even lawyers heading for industrial action as inflation rises. up 10%. Read more

“The British worker needs a pay rise,” Mick Lynch, secretary general for Railways, Maritime Affairs and Transport Workers, told Sky News. “They need job security and decent conditions.”

During the wee hours of the morning, the roads were busier than usual with cars, bicycles and pedestrians. Hospital staff said some colleagues slept at work during the night to maintain attention.

Johnson told his cabinet that the strikes were “incorrect and unnecessary” and said his message to the country was that they should be prepared to “stay the course” as improvements in the way railways are made it was in the public interest.

A poll by YouGov polls earlier this month found divided public opinion, with about half of respondents opposed to the action and just over a third saying they supported it.

Leo Rudolph, a 36-year-old lawyer who was walking to work, said he would be more unhappy the longer the dispute lasted.

“That won’t be an isolated fact, will it?” he told Reuters.

Railway workers strike outside Preston station on the first day of the national railway strike in Preston, UK, on ​​June 21, 2022. REUTERS / Jason Cairnduff

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Inflation has soared across Europe as a result of a sharp rise in energy costs and Britain is not the only one facing strikes.

Action on the cost of living in Belgium caused disruptions at Brussels airport on Monday, while Germany’s most powerful union is pushing for large wage increases and in France President Emmanuel Macron faces riots for pension reforms.

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

The government says it is supporting millions of the poorest households, but warns that wage increases above inflation would damage the foundations of the economy and prolong the problem.

British railways were effectively nationalized during the pandemic, with train companies paying a fixed fare to run the services, while the tracks and infrastructure are managed by the state-owned Network Rail.

The RMT wants its members to receive a salary increase of at least 7%, but has said that Network Rail offers 2%, with another 1% linked to the sector’s reforms it opposes. The government has been criticized for not taking part in the talks. Ministers say unions need to address this directly with employers.

The outbreak of industrial action has been compared to the 1970s, when Britain faced widespread labor strikes, including the “winter of discontent” of 1978-79. Read more

The number of unionized British workers has dropped by about half since the 1970s, with much less frequent departures, in part due to changes made by former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to make it more difficult to call a strike.

The government says it will now change the law quickly to force train operators to provide a minimum service on strike days and allow employers to incorporate temporary staff.

Strikes occur when passengers at British airports experience chaotic delays and last-minute cancellations due to staff shortages, while health services falter under the pressure of long waiting lists created during the pandemic.

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Additional report by Paul Sandle, edited by Edmund Blair, Kate Holton and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: Thomson Reuters’ principles of trust.

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