Days after the news came around that the inflation in the UK rose to 10% in July for the first time after the 1980s, British rail workers came out in protest, demanding an increase in their wages to protect their standard of living. Many rail workers complained that their pay had not been increased in 10 years, and they could not further tolerate this situation any longer. The protest is reported to be the biggest in 3 decades in the UK, with one out of five trains operating while many parts of Britain, such as Scotland and Wales, have no train operations at all.
Former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn alongside Former General Secretary of National Union of Rail and Strike figurehead Mick Lynch joined the picket line outside London Euston station. “We have seen a great deal of support. People are coming back to the idea of collective action, strike action, and solidarity amongst working people,” said Mick Lynch. He further added, “our job is to get an agreement with the company so that our members can get back to work on a regular basis.” While Andre Haines, the Chief of Rail Network, described the negotiations as slow and painful for the economy with a lack of clarity over demands.
Passengers previously faced two 48-hour strikes in the 2nd week of December and from the 4th week of December to January 2nd with limited to no train activity at all. Further strikes are planned from January 4th to January 7th, with one in five trains to be run, which will indeed have a considerable impact on the operation.
The strike also includes an overtime and rest day working ban, due to which companies have suggested passengers plan their travels accordingly. Workers from other sectors, such as Postal service, garbage collectors, and dockers, are soon joining the strikes for their wages and work environment.
Some believe that the pay rise is a secondary reason for the magnitude of the strike in the UK by rail workers. After Covid, the traffic to the railway decreases considerably due to less demand for business travel than in pre-covid. More traffic was witnessed on off-peak trains, after morning rush hour, or on weekends. Collectively traveling habits have indeed changed among the people in the UK post covid with decreased activity due to changed working habits post-covid around the world.
With reduced traffic, the workers paid with taxpayer money should be laid off to balance the accounts. Companies are also looking forward to renovating their departments with changing working practices which might not fit well with the workers employed there for decades. On the other hand, the rail minister assured they are offering security that there will be no compulsory redundancies for the workforce and there will be a generous pay rise for them. He argued, “the modernization approach has been accepted by some unions, our message to the RMT (Rail, Maritime, and Transport workers) is to come on board.”
One might suspect the people of Britain are agitated by these ongoing strikes, but only a few travelers are complaining. People have been seen supporting the cause, acknowledging RMT’s issue, and mainly blaming the companies for all the disturbances. Boris Johnson, a Member of the House of Commons, while speaking to Rwanda, labeled the strikes “unnecessary” and “wrong” with an emphasis on the benefits of sensible reforms for rail workers as the government is investing in railways.