UK to see second nationwide railway strike after talks stall

LONDON — Britain faces the second of three national railway strikes on Thursday after further negotiations between union and employers ended in deadlock.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union accused the government of ‘sabotage’ Wednesday’s talks and said the 24-hour walkout by 40,000 cleaners, flaggers, maintenance workers and station staff would go ahead as planned. The union’s action this week is Britain’s biggest and most disruptive railway strike in 30 years.

Rail infrastructure company Network Rail said it was “disappointed that the RMT has again chosen to withdraw from negotiations. We remain available for interviews, day or night.

The union staged a one-day strike on Tuesday that has crippled Britain’s rail network, with just a fifth of passenger services running. Another walkout is scheduled for Saturday.

The dispute centers on pay, working conditions and job security as UK rail companies aim to cut costs and staff after two years in which emergency government funding kept them afloat .

The strike pits the union against 13 private railway operating companies and the government-owned National Rail. While Britain’s Conservative government insists it is not involved in the dispute, the union notes that it plays a major role in the heavily regulated industry.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has blamed the strike on the union.

Railways union leader General Secretary Mick Lynch said the government had ‘frustrated these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening to make 2,900 of our members redundant’.

He said there could be no settlement unless the government agreed to ‘free up’ the rail companies and let them offer the union better terms than the 3% pay rise on the table until ‘now. Britain’s inflation rate hit 9.1% in May as Russia’s war in Ukraine cuts supplies of energy and basic foodstuffs, even as post-pandemic consumer demand soars .

The government has warned that large increases will trigger a price-wage spiral leading to even higher inflation.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the union’s claim that he had meddled was “a total lie”.

‘I had absolutely nothing to do with sending a letter from Network Rail, the employer, to the RMT – or any withdrawal request,’ he said.

Unions have told the country to brace for more as workers face the worst cost-of-living squeeze in more than a generation. Lawyers are planning a strike and unions representing teachers and postal workers both plan to consult their members on possible actions.

ABC News

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