London, Aug 18 (EFE).- A three-day rail strike has started in the United Kingdom as commuters face travel disruption with only 20% of services expected to operate in the country on Thursday.
Over 40,000 National Rail staff and London underground workers are demanding better wages and are protesting job cuts and changes in working conditions.
The strike action has been backed by members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) union who work across 14 railway companies, Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) union members working in seven companies and Unite, a union that represents various sectors, including transport and construction.
The strike is expected to spill into the weekend with London transport staff striking on Friday, and national rail workers walking out again on Saturday.
Several strikes have disrupted transport services in the UK this summer as workers face rocketing inflation and a sharp rise in the cost of living.
Network Rail CEO Andrew Haines told the BBC that negotiations were slow and painful and said there was no clarity “over what it would take for this strike to be called off.”
Meanwhile, Luke Chester, spokesman for the TSSA union said that “the reality is that what we need to resolve this dispute is a pay rise which reflects the cost of living increase that is affecting most people in this country very severely.”
According to the unions, the government has capped salary increases at railway companies at 2%, even though inflation has rocketed to over 10%.
According to the most recently published official data, the UK’s consumer price index stood at 10.1% in July, compared to 9.4% in June, making it the highest level in over 40 years.
Soaring electricity and gas prices are fuelling the CPI spike, as well as a rise in the cost of transport, food and non-alcoholic beverages, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The Bank of England recently raised interest rates from 1.25% to 1.75% in a bid to rein in inflation and warned that rates could reach 13% before the end of the year.
The bank also warned the UK could be heading for a recession in the last quarter of 2022 and that the economic crisis could spill into 2023. EFE