LONDON: Strikes paralyzed Britain‘s rail network on Thursday as union bosses, train companies and the government faced demands that workers’ wage increases keep pace with rising inflation.
A spike in the cost of food and fuel is pushing many household budgets to the brink and pushing unions to demand higher wage increases for their members. The government has pushed for wage moderation to avoid an inflation spiral.
Unions formed picket lines around train stations for the second day this week and warned of more union action unless a deal can be reached to improve wages and avoid layoffs.
“We will continue to talk to the companies about everything that has been put on the table and we will look at that and see if and when there is a new phase of industrial action to come,” said Mick Lynch, Secretary General of Rail. , Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), told the BBC†
“But if we don’t get a settlement, there’s a good chance we will.”
Although talks are ongoing, a third day of strike is planned for Saturday. Other industries are also moving into union action in what unions say could be a “summer of discontent.”
The government has criticized the strikes, calling them counterproductive and highly damaging to low-income people who rely on public transport and are unable to work from home.
Later on Thursday, ministers will outline planned changes to a law that would make it easier for companies to deploy temporary staff, in a move designed to minimize the impact of strikes.
“Once again, unions are holding the country to pay ransom by shutting down crucial public services and businesses. The situation we are in is not sustainable,” Secretary of State for Affairs. Kwasi Kwarteng said.
“Repealing these 1970s restrictions will give businesses the freedom to quickly access fully trained staff, while allowing people to go about their lives uninterrupted to keep the economy going.”