Trains canceled in the UK as unions stage second 24-hour strike

LONDON (AP) — Millions of people in Britain faced disruption Thursday as rail workers staged their second national strike this week.
The 24-hour strike by 40,000 cleaners, signalmen, maintenance workers and station staff has canceled about four-fifths of passenger services across the country. A third strike is planned for Saturday as part of Britain’s biggest and most disruptive rail strike in 30 years.
Train stations were largely deserted on Thursday. Roads were also less busy than expected, and many people seemed to heed advice to avoid traveling. Internet provider Virgin Media O2 said its data suggested “millions more people” than usual were working from home.
The strike is a headache for those who cannot work from home, as well as for patients with medical appointments, students heading for end-of-year exams and music lovers heading to the Glastonbury Festivalwhich runs through Sunday on a farm in south-west England.
The dispute centers on pay, working conditions and job security, as British rail companies seek to cut costs and staff after two years in which government emergency funds kept them afloat.
The strike confronts the Railway, Maritime and Transport Union against 13 private companies operating trains and the state national railway. Talks between union representatives and employers ended in deadlock on Wednesday. The union accused the British Conservative government of wrecking the negotiations.
The union says the government is preventing employers from improving the 3% wage increase on the table so far. Britain’s inflation rate hit 9.1% in May as Russia’s war in Ukraine cuts energy and food staples supplies while post-pandemic consumer demand soars.
“Every time we get close, there’s some kind of maneuvering somewhere outside the room with people we’re not talking to, that has an impact on what’s going on inside the room.” eddie dempseysaid the deputy general secretary of the union.
The government denies involvement in the negotiations, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson has directly blamed the union for the strike. The government also warned that large wage increases would trigger a price-wage spiral that would drive inflation even higher.
All sides are watching public frustration, and polls suggest that opinion is evenly split between support and opposition to the strikes.
Unions have told the country to brace for more as workers face the worst cost-of-living cut in more than a generation. Lawyers are planning a strike starting next week, and unions representing teachers and postal workers plan to consult their members about possible action.

Leave a Comment