The UK is today facing chaos on its railways, following the largest walk-out by workers in over 30 years over pay and working conditions.
About 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff are taking part in a 24-hour strike today, with two more planned for Thursday and Saturday. The strike, the biggest of its type since 1989, went ahead after last-ditch talks between unions and rail operators broke down.
Mick Lynch, secretary general of the RMT union representing workers, was insistent that whilst disruption was not desired it would be inevitable should their demands not be met.
“The British worker needs a pay rise,” Lynch said. “They need job security, decent conditions and a square deal in general. If we can get that we won’t have to have the disruption in the British economy that we’ve got now and which may develop across the summer.”
Rail operators have offered a 3% pay rise to workers, an offer well below the current rate of inflation, which sits at 9% and has been described by Lynch as “unacceptable”.
Major stations were empty on Tuesday morning, as commuters found alternative ways to work with only about 20% of passenger services scheduled to run.
Andrew Haines, chief executive of UK operator Network Rail, blamed the RMT for failing to compromise, saying he was “profoundly sorry” to passengers for the disruption caused.