New attempt to tackle UK rail strike as Boris Johnson urges sector to modernize
The RMT union will hold fresh talks with rail bosses to avoid more strikes later this week, as Boris Johnson warns the industry needs to modernize or it will “go bust” and the industry This cuts jobs.
Negotiations will resume on Wednesday after parts of Britain halted on Tuesday in the biggest strike against the country’s rail lines in 30 years. Passengers have been forced to stay home after warnings to avoid all but essential travel, with only about a fifth of major trains running and many lines closing completely.
With skeleton services running only for commuters to London and other cities, there are no trains on large parts of the network all day.
The Prime Minister called on “union tycoons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies” to agree reforms such as phasing out ticket offices.
After negotiations failed on Monday night, Network Rail wrote to RMT informing them of its plans to consult with the 1,800 people who lost their jobs and change working methods. The public body said it hoped “the vast majority” of job losses could be voluntary, but RMT said the two sides have yet to reach an agreement.
Mick Lynch, leader of Railway Union RMT organizer of the strike, which involved 40,000 employees at infrastructure owner Network Rail and employees at 13 train operators, said his priority was to address ensuring there were no situations mandatory redundancy.
Than strike are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday if no deal is reached, while London Underground employees also go on strike for a day on Tuesday.
A Network Rail executive said the two sides reached a last-minute agreement late Monday, but added that RMT had not gone far enough in modernizing maintenance operations in return for a higher salary agreement.
RMT management is promoting a salary increase of 7 to 8% to compensate for Inflation is expected to reach 11% This year. But Johnson called at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday for pay discipline to curb inflationary pressures, arguing that railway modernization was essential.
“I say this to the whole country: we need to be ready to continue the journey,” he added. “These improvements in the way we operate the railway are in the public interest. . . If we don’t do this, these great companies, this amazing industry, will face further financial pressure, it will go bankrupt. ”
TUC leadership has warned strikes could spread to other industries and on Tuesday the Communications Workers Union said it would vote consecutively on members on industrial action at the Royal Mail. .
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said he was “deeply sorry” to passengers for the disruption caused by the strike on the train but blamed RMT for its refusal to compromise, including methods working “classic”.
Haines added that the ministers agreed Railway network could go beyond the public sector wage cap and deliver an increase of more than 3% because of the huge scope for productivity gains in the industry.
Lynch said agreeing a pay package was only his third priority, after defending the job and terms and conditions. He added that the railway companies were watching the talks “from the other end of the telescope”.
While the government refuses to negotiate directly with the RMT, in practice, ministers control the industry’s finances.
Network Rail is state-owned, while the Department of Transport sets an annual budget for services run by private train operators under changes in the era of the coronavirus pandemic.
Business leaders warn that strikes will hit industries that have just recovered from the economic impact of Covid-19 the hardest.
UKHospitality estimates the strike will cost the sector between £540m and £1bn as thousands of people will be unable to travel around the country, harming bars, hotels, clubs, homes theater and restaurant.
Strike means more people are able to stay at home week than at any time since the last pandemic shutdown, delivering another blow to downtown businesses.
But the Covid-driven adaptation to telecommuting means industrial activity is not likely to be as disruptive as previous shutdowns.
Cargo services will be prioritized for the week but UK supply chains will be strained again. Maggie Simpson, head of the Rail Freight Group, said freight volumes would drop by 30 to 40 per cent for the week and the strikes would “add an added risk to already fragile supply chains,” said Maggie Simpson, who head of the Rail Freight Group said.
Rail skeleton service will close by 18:30 p.m. Tuesday, with the last train between London and the cities such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Edinburgh all depart before 4pm.
Train drivers are members of another union and are not on strike, while industry has put other managers and employees on the front lines to work on platforms and signal boxes.
The disruption is likely to last in the days between official strikes, especially in the morning, as trains will be left with no room for their scheduled runs.
Additional reporting by Jim Pickard and Daniel Thomas