UK braces for nationwide railway strike as last-ditch talks fail | KSEE24

LONDON (AP) — Britain is facing its biggest rail strikes in decades after last-minute talks between a union and rail companies failed to produce an agreement on rail wages and safety. ‘use.

Up to 40,000 cleaners, flaggers, maintenance workers and station workers are due out for three days this week, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The strike is expected to shut down most of the rail network across the country, with London Underground services also affected by a walkout on Tuesday.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union called the employers’ latest offer “unacceptable” and said “the strike scheduled for this week will continue”.

General Secretary Mick Lynch said the rail companies had “offered pay rates which are massively below the relevant inflation rates, coming on top of the pay freezes of recent years”.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the strike would cause “massive disruption”, with only around 20% of services able to operate.

Shapps blamed the strike squarely on unions, which he said were resisting changes needed to make the railways “fit for the post-COVID world”.

“This strike is not about pay,” Shapps told lawmakers. “It’s about outdated unions standing in the way of progress.”

Passenger numbers in the UK remain below pre-COVID-19 levels, and rail companies, which have been kept afloat with government support during the pandemic, are looking to cut costs and staff.

The unions urged the government to get involved in resolving the dispute. They accuse Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative administration of standing aside so they can blame unions and the centre-left opposition Labor Party for the disruption.

Unions say the government, which sets the rules for rail companies and owns infrastructure operator Network Rail, has not given companies enough flexibility to offer a substantial pay rise.

“The dead hand of this Conservative government is everywhere in this dispute,” said union leader Lynch.

Unions are warning of a summer of strikes as soaring inflation hits workers’ wages across the economy.

Millions of people in Britain, as across Europe, are seeing their cost of living soar. Wages have not kept pace with inflation, which has reached 9% and is expected to rise further as Russia’s war in Ukraine cuts energy and food supplies, including wheat. Prices were already rising before the war as the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic fueled strong consumer demand.

Lynch said he expects other sectors to strike later this year.

“I think there will be many unions voting across the country because people can’t take it anymore,” he told Sky News. “We have people working full-time jobs who have to collect state benefits and use food banks. It is a national disgrace. »

Treasury Minister Simon Clarke said workers should get a “reasonable pay rise”, but too big a raise would trigger a price-wage spiral leading to even higher inflation.

To add to the misery of UK travel, Heathrow Airport said it was asking airlines serving Terminals 2 and 3 to cut 10% of flights on Monday. The request came after reports emerged on Friday of a huge luggage backlog at London airport.

Several European airports have cut flights in an attempt to reduce delays. Low-cost airline easyJet said on Monday it was ‘consolidating’ flights due to ‘operational issues’ at airports such as London Gatwick and Schiphol in Amsterdam, which have both reduced the number of flights they will handle during the summer. EasyJet did not specify how many flights would be affected.

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