Britain’s rail network suffered major disruption again on Wednesday as staff backed out in a row over wages and conditions, the latest in a wave of industrial unrest as wages failed to keep pace with the surge of inflation.
The 24-hour strike by more than 40,000 members of the RMT and TSSA unions has forced around half of Britain’s rail network to close, with train companies operating a severely reduced timetable and parts of the country with no train service.
Network Rail has urged passengers, including commuters, families going on summer holidays and sports fans en route to the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham which start on Thursday, to only travel if necessary.
Changing work practices during the coronavirus pandemic have allowed many office workers to choose to work from home.
Last month’s strike brought Britain’s rail network to a standstill for three days and last week some key lines across the country were forced to close when record temperatures damaged the track.
“Our members are more determined than ever to get a decent pay rise, job security and good working conditions,” RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said in a statement.
“Network Rail has made no improvement over its previous salary offer and the rail companies have offered us nothing new.”
The RMT union said it had been offered a 4 per cent raise, followed by a possible 4 per cent raise the following year depending on staff accepting changes to their contracts.
Another union, ASLEF, representing train drivers, said on Wednesday that its members in nine railway companies would strike on August 13 over pay, in addition to the strike scheduled for Saturday.
Inflation in Britain is at its highest level in 40 years and is expected to hit double digits later this year, due to soaring fuel and food prices.
Soaring inflation and more than 10 years of stagnant real wages have sparked Britain’s worst cost of living crisis since record highs began in the 1950s, heightening social tensions in sectors such as services postal, health, schools, airports and the justice system.
It has also become a point of contention in the race to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, with the last two candidates, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, pledging to suppress strikes.
Last week the government changed the law to make it easier for companies to use temporary staff to minimize the impact of strikes.
Ferry services to Cowes on the Isle of Wight will also be interrupted on Wednesday due to a strike, and another train strike is expected on Saturday.
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