Britain’s rail network was paralyzed again after more than 45,000 rail workers turned away on Thursday following ongoing disputes over wages, jobs and working conditions.
Only about one-fifth of the rail network remains operational, with lines that are open only operating between 7:30am and 6:30pm.
The rail strikes affecting Network Rail and 14 rail companies on Thursday and Saturday are coordinated by three unions. Some 40,000 members of the National Rail, Shipping and Transport Workers’ Union (RMT) and thousands of members of the Transport Payroll Staff Association (TSSA) and Unite Union took part in the action.
Meanwhile, RMT members in London’s underground and overground are planning a strike on Friday over another dispute over wages and pensions.
Disputes could last ‘indefinitely’
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch criticized the government’s refusal to get involved in negotiations between the union and the railroad company.
He accused Transportation Secretary Grant Shaps of “using taxpayer money to satisfy the Tory anti-union agenda and dismantle the unions.”
This, he argued, meant that “the dispute would drag on indefinitely.”
But Network Rail CEO Andrew Haynes told ITV that he believed union members were not “clear why they were striking” and that the problem was not the government. He claimed to be in the RMT union.
He told the BBC that talks with unions had been “slow” and “painful”, with “a clear lack of what was needed to call off this strike”.
“The world has changed”
The government criticized trade unions for the dire consequences for travelers and said the strike was not as effective as it had been because “the world has changed”.
A Department of Transportation (DfT) spokesperson said: Bringing our railroad into his 21st century. “
A spokesperson said: “It’s clear that strikes are not the powerful tool they once were and union leaders are saying that unlike them, the world is changing and people are simply working from home. It can no longer be stopped.”
DfT has called on union bosses to “give a voice” to union members on Network Rail’s “very fair deal”.
“It’s time to get off the picket line and return to the negotiating table. The future of our railroads rests on it,” said a spokesperson.
PA Media contributed to this report.