London, Jun 21 (EFE).- British rail and London Tube services have been reduced to a minimum as unionized workers on Tuesday began the largest strike in the sector in 30 years over pay and conditions.
The industrial action is due to be repeated on Thursday and Saturday after talks between the
National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and public rail company Network Rail, Transport for London, as well as private firms, stagnated on Monday.
Network Rail, which manages the majority of train lines in Great Britain, and Transport for London, the government body in charge of most transport in the capital including the London Underground, warned customers to avoid travel on strike dates.
The strike will reduce rail services to about 20% of normal operations, train companies warned, and is the largest industrial walkout in the sector since 1989.
RMT members are calling for a 7% pay rise to keep up with soaring inflation in the United Kingdom and have accused Network Rail of planning to carry out job cuts and forced redundancies.
The union has also blamed the Conservative Party government for frustrating negotiations.
Prime minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday described the strikes as an “unnecessary aggravation” and said the public would have to “stay the course.”
“We need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it,” Johnson told a televised cabinet meeting.
“These reforms, these improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the traveling public, they will help to cut costs for fare payers up and down the country.”
British rail companies are pushing for reforms to the sector in the wake of the pandemic, during which time it was kept afloat with government subsidies totalling 16 billion pounds (roughly $19.6bn).
Operations and turnover have not returned to pre-pandemic levels thanks, in part, to a change in commuter habits.
One of the proposed reforms would replace ticket office workers in stations with few passengers with automated machines.
The Labour Party opposition has accused Johnson’s government of inaction in preventing the strikes. The party leadership, however, warned frontbench members of the shadow cabinet not to join picket lines. EFE