Forty thousand UK Network Rail employees and workers in 13 train operators have left due to pay in the UK’s largest rail strike in 30 years.
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LONDON – The daily shutdown of the railway, which causes serious disruptions to travel in the UK, could only be the beginning of a summer of strikes, warned the unions of workers in the UK, as many professions believe that industrial action is above pay.
About 40,000 Network Rail employees and workers in 13 train operators went on strike on Tuesday in the first of a series of planned strikes. This happened after talks between the operators and the British union RMT failed to reach an agreement on pay, working conditions and possible redundancies.
Only 20% of rail services in England, Scotland and Wales were on Tuesday, with additional cancellations expected on Thursday and Saturday, disrupting millions of workers and holidaymakers before the peak summer travel season.
London Underground pipes were also running at limited capacity on Tuesday as staff went on strike.
The unions say rail strikes – the worst in a generation – are backed by workers in other sectors and could prompt them to step up action in a growing stalemate between government and public sector workers.
That could lead to similar resignations of teachers, health workers and local officials, the UK’s main organized labor movement told TUC on Tuesday.
“Many public sector workers are waiting to hear what their pay offer will be. Trade unions in education, the civil service and other parts of the public sector are already clear that if bids are significantly below inflation, they will vote for their members for industrial action, “said TUC Deputy Secretary General Paul Novak.
This comes as the UK suffers from its worst crisis in the cost of living in decades, with wages failing to cope with rising food and energy prices.
Inflation in the United Kingdom jumped to a 40-year high of 9% in May – a figure forecast by the Bank of England could reach 11% in October. However, the government is trying to keep public sector wage increases well below that.
The British Teachers’ Union said the profession was on the brink of an “existential crisis” as workers struggled to make ends meet.
NASUWT has already said it will vote for members for national industrial action in November if the government fails to meet demands to increase wages by 12% this year.
“Teachers are suffering not only from the cost of living crisis that the country is struggling with, but also from 12 years of real wage cuts, which have left a 20% shortfall in the value of their salaries,” said Secretary-General Patrick Roach. statement week.
Nurses similarly seek a 15% salary increaseas a spokeswoman for the nurses’ union, RCN told CNBC on Tuesday that pay was “a crucial factor in recruiting and retaining nurses.”
The TUC said any decision to strike would not be taken lightly, but called on the government to do more to support those facing a wage freeze and real wage cuts.
“We hope that no industrial action will be needed,” Novak said. “But we need this conservative government to acknowledge the damage they have done by keeping wages in the public sector for so long. It has pushed working people to the brink. We have teachers and nurses who rely on food banks – it can’t to continue.”
Rail strikes in Britain have caused great disruption to millions of workers and holidaymakers before the peak summer travel season.
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Negotiations between Network Rail and RMT failed on Monday after the union rejected proposals, including a 3% pay rise in exchange for changes in workplace practices.
RMT leader Mick Lynch accused the government of “shackling” bids for railway operators, instead calling for a 7% to 8% pay rise and warning that industrial action would continue “as long as necessary” until workers to be fulfilled.
UK Transport Minister Grant Schaps said the opposition was “produced” by unions and said workers were on strike under “false claims”. However, he again on Tuesday rejected calls for the government to intervene in the talks, saying “it is the job of employers to meet with unions”.
The strikes come as the UK economy struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit supply problems. New data released last week shows the country’s economy it shrank unexpectedly by 0.3% in April, which heightens fears of an impending recession.
Business leaders said the departure could have serious consequences for other sectors, especially those already heavily affected by Covid-19 restrictions.
Rail strikes alone this week could cost the UK leisure, theater and tourism industry more than £ 1bn ($ 1.22 billion) as more people stay home, according to UKHospitality.
Susanne Streetter, a senior investment and market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said rail strikes have turned ongoing operational headaches into a “completely bloated migraine” for the hospitality industry.
“Restaurants, bars and hotels have already struggled under the pressure of high energy prices, supply chain disruptions and the ongoing labor crisis, and now mass departures will cause new financial pain,” she said in a note on Tuesday.
“As the transport network slows down, bookings are expected to drop as the lucrative crowd stays home during lunch and nightclubs cancel reservations while fearing they won’t be able to go home late at night.” she added. .