London, June 23 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of railway workers in the United Kingdom on Thursday staged the second day of the largest rail strike in the country since 1989.
The industrial action, which has been called for by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), will be repeated on Saturday after talks over pay, conditions and job cuts with employers Network Rail and other private firms stalled.
Nearly 40,000 workers have ground the UK train and rail network to a standstill, forcing many to opt for other means of transport such as buses or taxis, while others have decided to work from home.
The walk-out will cost the British economy dearly, with the hospitality sector alone losing over 500 million pounds ($609 million).
“Many of our people haven’t had a pay rise for 2-3 years, and that’s true of the general public as well.. many have also had their pay suppressed, so we’re part of a movement that’s trying to rebalance that and get a square deal for everyone,” RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said on BBC Breakfast Thursday.
The union chief has said that the campaign of strikes will continue until a negotiated agreement that provides job security and a salary increase to keep up with rising inflation is obtained.
But on Thursday talks between the RMT union and railway employers broke down with Lynch blaming the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, for “wrecking negotiations.”
The strike comes at a time when the UK faces inflation rates that are at a 40-year high, according to the Office of National Statistics.
The Consumer Prices Index rose by 9.1% in the 12 months to May 2022, up from 9.0% in April, the agency said in a report published Wednesday.
Due to the impact of the strike, the British government said it was drafting a bill that would allow companies to hire temporary agency workers to replace employees who join walkouts.
According to the business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, “repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses the freedom to access skilled, temporary staff at short notice.”EFE