On the third day of a nationwide strike that disrupted millions of people's weekend plans, train stations are essentially vacant throughout Britain.
(AP) LONDON — The third day of a nationwide strike disrupted millions of people's plans for the weekend, leaving train stations virtually empty across Britain on Saturday.
In Britain's largest and most disruptive railroad strike in 30 years, nearly 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers, and station staff walked off the job. Train companies predicted that only a fifth of passenger trains would operate.
On Tuesday and Thursday, the same employees went on 24-hour strikes to protest their jobs, wages, and working conditions.
The Rail, Maritime, and Transport Union is fighting for a significant salary increase as workers struggle to keep up with costs of living due to four decades of historically high inflation rates. While this is going on, train companies are looking to reduce staffing and costs after receiving two years of emergency government support to get them through the pandemic.
Rail workers would not accept "being tossed on the scrapheap after being hailed as heroes during COVID," according to union general secretary Mick Lynch, who also foresaw the possibility of additional strikes during the summer.
If we can't come to a deal or if the firms follow through on their threats to lay off workers, we won't hesitate to take more industrial action, he told Sky News.
The Conservative administration is adamant that it would not intervene in the dispute between the union and the government-controlled National Rail infrastructure company as well as 13 privately owned train operating firms.
However, the union claims that by blocking employers from raising the proposed 3% pay increase, the government is sabotaging negotiations. Britain's inflation rate reached 9.1% in May as the post-pandemic consumer demand surged and supplies of energy and basic foods were constrained by Russia's conflict in Ukraine.
The number of rail passengers had only increased to 75% of pre-pandemic levels, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and "change and improvement in the way the railroads run, and modernization" were required.
He has also cautioned that significant salary increases could set off a spiraling wage-price relationship that would drive inflation.
Workers are experiencing the biggest cost of living squeeze in more than a generation, and unions have warned the nation to prepare for more. The unions representing teachers and postal workers will survey their members before taking any potential strike action, while British Airways employees at Heathrow Airport have chosen to walk out during the summer holiday period.
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