The entrance to Victoria Underground Station closed during a strike on 6 June 2022 in London (AFP / HOLLIE ADAMS)
Britain is preparing for a massive three-day railway strike this week, which could be the worst in 30 years, due to a conflict between unions and railway companies over wages and jobs.
The railway union RMT, which is particularly calling for wage increases in line with galloping inflation, announced in early June that more than 50,000 railway workers would go on strike “during the biggest sector conflict since 1989” and the major privatizations of the sector.
The biggest mobilization day is scheduled for Tuesday and will affect train lines across the country as well as the London Underground. The movement will resume on Thursday and then on Saturday, but transport will be interrupted from Monday to Sunday.
“Avoid traveling as much as possible” on Tuesday because “most underground and national rail links will be severely disrupted or will not work”, warns Transport for London (TfL, the London transport operator) on its website.
The Network Rail group, which manages the country’s railway infrastructure, presented a figure of only 20% of the service provided, with half of the network open, for the three-day strike.
Andrew Haines, CEO of Network Rail, called for preparations for an “unnecessary strike with harmful effects”.
This exclusion risks disrupting several major sporting and cultural events, such as the Glastonbury Music Festival (southwest of England), a Rolling Stones concert in Hyde Park in London on Saturday and the final exams of some high school students.
A deserted station platform during a strike called by the British Railway Union RMT on 13 March 2017 in Manchester (AFP / OLI SCARFF)
On Saturday, the RMT confirmed that the strike would take place after negotiations broke down and “no workable agreement” had been reached, according to union general secretary Mick Lynch.
The government did its best to convince employees of the railway companies and TfL, the London equivalent of RATP, to abandon the strike.
– Ball in the foot –
Business Secretary Paul Scully said on Friday that the strike risks harming “businesses, people’s livelihoods”, at a time when their finances are “weakened” by the cost-of-living crisis and inflation in the UK.
Passengers wait for a train at Clapham Junction station during a rail transport strike on 10 January 2017 in London (AFP / Daniel LEAL)
He also said the strikers were likely to shoot themselves in the foot as the rail network has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced people to stay home for months and then caused many to leave. Choose more remote work.
Transport Minister Grant Shapps on Thursday condemned on Twitter “the transport associations’ prehistoric way of working”.
The day before, he said there were “necessary changes” for the British rail network to “keep pace with modern life”, and he also pointed out that the sector has benefited from £ 16 billion in subsidies to help it cope with declining revenues during pandemic.
The RMT union is sticking to its guns, and Mick Lynch warned on Sky News on Sunday that other strikes could take place over the summer if no agreement is reached.
The union says Network Rail, which operates the rail network, intends to cut at least 2,500 maintenance jobs as part of a £ 2bn austerity plan.
Other sectoral unions, such as TSSA and Unite, organized polls among their members that could expand the movement beyond June 25 or expand it to buses.
The British transport sector has already in recent weeks been marked by a series of cancellations of hundreds of flights, sometimes at the last minute. It suffers from a significant shortage of staff at airports and airlines, which had resulted in scenes of chaos in the terminals.
Problems that were to persist in the UK and elsewhere in Europe throughout the summer had warned the sector organization Airlines for Europe.