LONDON — Thousands of train workers in Britain staged another round of strikes on Thursday, paralyzing train service across the country in an escalating dispute over pay and working conditions, exacerbated by a deepening crisis in the cost of living.
Only about one in five trains passed through the UK as a result of the strike by trade unionists, who have already staged several strikes in recent months. A strike planned for Friday is expected to affect most of London’s tube network and bus service in the capital, while another strike on Saturday will again disrupt national rail traffic.
Mick Lynch, leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, said railway workers, like other public sector workers in the UK, are struggling with rising food and fuel prices.
He warned of “a wave of solidarity actions” hitting multiple sectors after official figures on Wednesday showed the country’s inflation had soared to a new 40-year high of 10.1% in July, ahead of analysts’ forecast of 9. .8%.
Unions representing postal, port and aviation workers have also announced strikes as the cost-of-living crisis bites into wages. In Scotland, garbage collectors and recycling workers in the capital Edinburgh launched an 11-day strike on Thursday, saying a 3.5% pay increase was not enough to cope with rising bills.
“The people of this country are fed up with low wages. Many millions of people have not received a decent wage for decades,” Lynch said on the picket line at London’s Euston train station on Thursday. “So public sector workers in health, education, transport and all sorts of other services are wage cuts and rampant inflation.”
He blamed the conservative government’s alleged “anti-union agenda” for the continuation of the labor dispute and said railway workers would continue the strike action until a settlement is reached with privately owned but heavily regulated train companies.
Lynch alleged British officials have used taxpayers’ money to bail out the companies so they don’t lose revenue from strikes, removing incentives for executives to negotiate.
The government has argued that it has spent huge amounts of government funding to protect rail workers’ jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, and officials are seeking to cut costs and staff to make the train system financially sustainable going forward. They say fair wages were offered to the railway workers.
A spokesman for the transport ministry said that for the sixth time since June, union leaders “choose to cause havoc and disrupt the daily lives of millions” rather than work on a deal.
“We urge union leaders to do the right thing for their members and let them have their say on Network Rail’s very fair deal, which will deliver the reforms our rail system urgently needs,” the spokesperson said. lines and back around the negotiating table.”
Some 40,000 railway workers, including cleaners and maintenance workers, left their jobs for three days in June to demand better wages, job security and working conditions, triggering the UK’s largest strike in three decades.
Since then, several other railway strikes have followed and no solution has been reached between the government and the workers.
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