By Kylie MacLellan and Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) – The biggest rail strike in the UK in 30 years began on Tuesday when tens of thousands of workers abandoned a wage and job dispute that could pave the way for widespread industrial action across the country. economy in the coming months.
The picket lines appeared in the morning and will be covered by some of the more than 40,000 railway workers who are due to strike on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, paralleling the network. The London Underground was also closed due to the strike.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, under pressure to do more to help British households facing the hardest economic blow in decades, said industrial action would hurt businesses as long as they continue to recover from the pandemic.
Unions have said rail strikes could mark the start of a “summer of discontent” with teachers, doctors, waste disposal workers and even lawyers heading for industrial action. Rising food and fuel prices push inflation to 10%
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“Our campaign will last as long as it takes,” Mick Lynch, secretary general of Railroad, Maritime and Transportation Workers (RMT), told reporters on Monday.
The prime minister said the unions were harming people who said they were helping.
“By continuing with these rail strikes, they are moving away from travelers who ultimately support the jobs of railroad workers, while also affecting businesses and communities across the country,” Johnson told his office later Tuesday. your office.
The British economy initially recovered strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic, but a combination of labor shortages, supply chain disruption, inflation and post-Brexit trade problems has sparked warnings. a recession.
The government says it is providing additional support to millions of the poorest households, but says wage increases above inflation would damage the foundations of the economy.
“Sustained higher levels of inflation would have a much greater impact on people’s long-term pay packages, destroying savings and prolonging the difficulties we face for longer,” Johnson said.
The outbreak of industrial action has been compared to the 1970s, when Britain faced widespread labor strikes, including the “winter of discontent” of 1978-79.
Strikes occur when passengers at British airports experience chaotic delays and last-minute cancellations due to staff shortages, while many Britons have to wait months for new passports to arrive due to delays in processing. .
The rail strike means that only about half of the UK rail network will be open on strike days with very limited service on these lines and a continuous disruption on days between strike days.
(Edited by Edmund Blair)
Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.