UK to see 2nd national rail strike after talks hit stalemate

Britain is facing the second of three national railway strikes after new negotiations between union and employers ended in deadlock

APTOPIX Britain Rail Strike
APTOPIX Britain Rail Strike

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

The Rail, Maritime and Transport Union accused the government of “wrecking” Wednesday’s talks and said the 24-hour walkout by 40,000 cleaners, signalers, 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 for 30 years.

Rail infrastructure company Network Rail said it was “disappointed that the RMT have again chosen to walk away from negotiations. We remain available for talks, day or night.”

The union held a daylong strike on Tuesday that brought the U.K. rail network to a crawl, with only a fifth of passenger services running. Another walkout is planned for Saturday.

The dispute centers on pay, working conditions and job security as Britain’s train companies aim to cut costs and staffing after two years in which emergency government funding kept them afloat.

The strike pits the union against 13 privately owned train-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 put blame for the strike squarely on the union.

The railway union's leader, General Secretary Mick Lynch, said the government had “wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.”

He said there could not be a settlement unless the government agreed to “unshackle” the train companies and let them offer the union better terms than the 3% pay raise on the table so far. Britain’s inflation rate hit 9.1% in May, as Russia’s war in Ukraine squeezes supplies of energy and food staples, even as post-pandemic consumer demand is soaring.

The government warned that big raises would spark a wage-price spiral driving inflation even higher.

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

“I have had absolutely nothing to do with either the issuing of a letter from Network Rail, the employer, to the RMT — or any request to withdraw it,” 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 walkout, and unions representing teachers and postal workers both plan to consult their members about possible actions.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in