Walk to rail kicks off in UK amid fears of a summer wage strike

Forty thousand Network Rail employees and workers at 13 train operators staged wage claims in Britain’s biggest rail strike in 30 years.

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LONDON – A multi-day rail walkout that is causing severe travel disruption across Britain could be just the start of a summer of strikes, British workers unions have warned, as Many professions consider industrial action overpaid.

About 40,000 Network Rail employees and workers at 13 train operators went on strike Tuesday, in the first of a series of planned strikes. This comes after negotiations between the operators and the UK RMT union no agreement was reached in terms of wages, working conditions and redundancies.

Only 20% of rail services in England, Scotland and Wales were operational on Tuesday, with flights further canceled on Thursday and Saturday, leading to major disruption for millions of workers and people. take a vacation before the peak summer tourist season.

Underground tubes in London were also operating at limited capacity on Tuesday when staff went on strike.

Unions say rail strikes – the worst in a generation – are supported by staff in other areas and could encourage them to step up action amid growing deadlock between government and public sector workers.

That could lead to similar walks by teachers, healthcare workers and local government employees, TUC, Britain’s main movement for organized labor, told CNBC on Tuesday.

“Many workers in the public sector are waiting to hear what their wages will be. Unions in the education, civil service and other parts of the public sector have been clear that if offers are low significantly above inflation, they will vote for their members to act industrially,” said TUC Deputy Secretary-General Paul Nowak.

It comes as the UK is experiencing its worst cost of living crisis in decades, with wages failing to keep pace with rising food and energy prices.

Inflation in the UK has risen to The highest level in 40 years is 9% in May – a figure the Bank of England forecasts could hit 11% in October. However, the government has managed to keep public sector wage growth well below that.

‘Crisis exists’ for public sector workers

Britain’s teaching union has said the profession is on the verge of an “existential crisis” as workers struggle to make ends meet.

The NASUWT has now said that it will vote on membership for national industrial action in November if the government fails to meet its demand for a 12% wage increase this year.

“Teachers are suffering not only from the cost-of-living crisis that the whole country is struggling with, but 12 years of real wage cuts that have left them with a 20 percent shortfall,” said Secretary General Patrick Roach. know. in one Sunday statement.

Similarly, nurses are looking for a 15% salary increaseA spokesperson for the nurse association RCN told CNBC on Tuesday that pay is “an important factor in recruiting and retaining nurses.”

The TUC said any decision to strike would not be taken lightly, but called on the government to do more to support those facing wage freezes and pay cuts in real terms.

“We hope that industrial action will not be necessary,” Nowak said. “But we need this Conservative government to realize the harm they’ve done by withholding wages from the public sector for so long. It has pushed working people to the brink.

Britain’s rail strikes have led to massive disruption for millions of workers and holidaymakers ahead of the peak summer travel season.

Bryn Colton | Getty Images News | beautiful pictures

Negotiations between Network Rail and RMT broke down Monday after the workers union rejected proposals, including a 3% pay raise, in exchange for changes to workplace practices .

RMT leader Mick Lynch accused the government of “trapping” rail operators’ pay offers, instead calling for a wage increase of 7% to 8% and warning that industrial action would lasts “as long as it takes” until the needs of the workers are met.

UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the standoff had been “manufactured” by unions and said workers had gone on strike with “spoofing behaviour”. On Tuesday, however, he rebuffed calls for the government to get involved in the negotiations, saying it was “the job of employers to meet with unions.”

Implications for other industries

Business leaders have said that the walks could have big implications for other sectors, especially those already hit hard by Covid-19 restrictions.

This week’s rail strikes alone could cost Britain’s entertainment, theater and tourism industries more than £1 billion ($1.22 billion) as more people stay at home, according to a report. UKHospitality trade body.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and market analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the rail strikes had turned ongoing operational headaches into a “complete migraine” for the passenger industry. hotel.

“Restaurs, bars and hotels are already grappling with the pressures of sky-high energy prices, supply chain disruptions and ongoing labor conditions, and now, The mass walkout will cause new financial difficulties.”

“As the transport network kicks in, bookings are expected to plummet as lucrative lunchtime crowds stay at home and late-night eaters cancel bookings out of fear they won’t be able to get home. at the end of the night,” she added.

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