The UK’s largest rail strike in the last 30 years entered day two on Thursday with as many as half of routes rendered non-operational, according to Polish Radio.
London but also other British cities and intercity connections have been to various degrees paralysed since June 21 – the first day of the strike announced by the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union slated for June 21, 23 and 25.
Only around 20 percent of services will run and just half of the lines will be open solely during a time window between 7:30 am and 6:30 pm.
Contrarily to Tuesday, the first day of the strike, London Underground employees will not strike.
‘Sick and tired of having their pay slashed’
“RMT members are leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by a mixture of big business profits and government policy,” said Mick Lynch, RMT secretary-general.
The union is striking also because of the alleged “inability of the rail employers to come to a negotiated settlement with RMT.”
The strikes unfolded in the wake of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) serving a notice to ballot hundreds of workers on Southeastern trains services.
Hundreds of members are balloted by TSSA in NR, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Trains, Avanti West Coast, Northern, LNER and C2C.
Mr Lynch went on to say that “railway workers have been treated appallingly and despite our best efforts in negotiations, the rail industry with the support of the government has failed to take their concerns seriously.”
“We have a cost-of-living crisis, and it is unacceptable for railway workers to either lose their jobs or face another year of a pay freeze when inflation is at 11.1 pc and rising,” he said, adding that the union “will now embark on a sustained campaign of industrial action which will shut down the railway system.”
“Rail companies are making at least GBP 500 mln a year in profits, whilst fat cat rail bosses have been paid millions during the Covid-19 pandemic,” he claimed.
“RMT is open to meaningful negotiations with rail bosses and ministers, but they will need to come up with new proposals to prevent months of disruption on our railways,” Mr Lynch concluded.
For his part, Network Rail route director Mark Killick expressed his regret for “the disruption… We know how difficult this will be for our customers so soon after the pandemic.”
Having said that, Network Rail had managed to train 250 staff so that some of the busiest lines could remain operational, he reflected that “we also have to be honest and accept that we have to change the way we work, to reflect the changes in society and travel patterns post pandemic.”
In the light of the developments, unions have said this could mark the start of a “summer of discontent” with teachers, medics, waste disposal workers and even barristers heading for industrial action as inflation pushes 10 percent.