Strike rumbles UK trains for third day


LONDON (AP) — Train stations were nearly deserted across Britain on Saturday, as the third day of a nationwide strike snarled the weekend plans of millions.

Rail companies said only a fifth of passenger services would operate as around 40,000 cleaners, flaggers, maintenance workers and station workers walked off the job in the biggest rail strike and the Britain’s most disruptive for 30 years.

The same workers staged 24-hour strikes on Tuesday and Thursday in a dispute over jobs, wages and working conditions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union is demanding a substantial wage increase as workers face a squeeze on the cost of living amid high inflation rates for four decades. Rail companies, meanwhile, are seeking to cut costs and staff after two years in which government emergency funding kept them afloat during the pandemic.

Union General Secretary Mick Lynch said railway workers would not accept ‘being scrapped after being hailed as heroes during COVID’, and warned there could be more strikes over the summer.

“We won’t hesitate to resort to more industrial action if we can’t reach an agreement or if the companies follow through on their threats to lay off workers,” he told Sky News.

The Conservative government insists it will not get involved in the dispute between the union and 13 private rail operating companies and government infrastructure company National Rail.

But the union accuses the government of derailing negotiations by preventing employers from improving the 3% pay rise on the table so far. Britain’s inflation rate hit 9.1% in May as Russia’s war in Ukraine cuts supplies of energy and basic foodstuffs as post-pandemic consumer demand soars.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said rail passenger numbers were back to just 75% of pre-pandemic levels and there was a need for ‘reform and improvement in the way the railways work and modernise’ .

He also warned that large wage increases would trigger a price-wage spiral leading to even higher inflation.

Unions have told the country to brace for more as workers face the worst cost-of-living squeeze in more than a generation. British Airways workers at Heathrow Airport have voted to strike during the summer holiday season, lawyers plan a strike from next week and unions representing teachers and postal workers plan to consult their members on possible action.


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