Tube and rail strikes plunge London into chaos in biggest strike in 30 years

·6-min read
Tube and rail strikes plunge London into chaos in biggest strike in 30 years

London commuters now face a morning of misery on Tuesday as the Tube and rail strikes go ahead.

It is the biggest transport strikes in more than 30 years with half of Britain’s train lines shut down.

By 7pm on Monday, the Tube began to empty out ahead of 24-hour strike as Transport for London (TfL) warned commuters to avoid travel if possible until Wednesday mid-morning.

A photograph taken on the Victoria Line showed the Tube carriage almost empty at 7pm as London prepared for the strikes to cripple the capital’s transport network.

Last-ditch talks failed to resolve a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

London Tube Strike: June 2022

Thousands of members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail and 13 train operators will walk out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in the biggest outbreak of industrial action on the railways for a generation.

Services across the UK will start to be affected from Monday evening, with just one in five trains running on strike days, primarily on main lines and only for around 11 hours.

It coincides with the fourth network-wide strike this year on the London Underground, which is expected to grind the capital to a halt.

Talks were held into Monday afternoon but the sides remain deadlocked over a deal.

The RMT said the train operators have now made an offer and there is no further offer from Network Rail following one which was rejected last Friday.

General secretary Mick Lynch said: "The RMT National Executive Committee has now found both sets of proposals to be unacceptable and it is now confirmed that the strike action scheduled this week will go ahead.

"It is clear that the Tory Government, after slashing £4bn of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute.

"The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years.

"At the behest of the Government, companies are also seeking to implement thousands of job cuts and have failed to give any guarantee against compulsory redundancies."

Mr Lynch added rail companies have told the union they plan to “close every single ticket office in Britain regardless of the accessibility needs of the public and the diversity of the passengers that use the railway system”.

He added: “The RMT supports the campaign for a square deal for all working people in the face of the cost of living crisis.

“That means that public services have to be properly funded, and all workers paid properly with good conditions.

“We remain available for discussions during the action, after the action and between the strike dates... But we are firmly of the belief that the only way for us to settle this dispute is for (transport secretary) Grant Shapps and the government to allow these companies to negotiate and let the parties reach a reasonable agreement that will end the disruption of the service, will secure jobs and allow a decent transport system to be developed.”

It came after Boris Johnson issued an 11th-hour plea on Monday to rail unions to call off strikes this week.

The Prime Minister told rail workers that if they went ahead with the walk-outs they would be committing an “act of self-harm” as the industry had to modernise given that fewer people are using trains as the Covid crisis has led to a shift to more working from home. He also stressed that the industrial action would stifle London from “unleashing its full potential” as it seeks to recover from the pandemic.

Speaking to the Standard on Monday morning, Mr Johnson said: “It is our first full summer in two years where we face no restrictions to our way of life. Here in London, I want to see the capital’s businesses thriving, theatres full and pubs and restaurants bustling. I want the city to unleash its full potential.

“And it is for this reason that it is not too late for unions to stay at the table and call off these strikes. They are an act of self-harm for rail workers — driving away commuters now will only threaten jobs, growth and the modernisation of this fantastic industry.”

Teacher unions were also on Monday demanding pay rises at least in line with inflation, currently nine per cent, with unions representing nurses, barristers, doctors, civil servants, postal workers and BT engineers also threatening walk-outs in what could be a summer of industrial action.

Treasury minister Simon Clarke told Sky News earlier on Monday: “Clearly we will continue to support negotiations until such time as there’s no more time to discuss, but I think the public do need to be aware this week there will be very substantial disruption and people should make preparations now.”

Ministers insist it is up to the unions and rail chiefs to resolve the dispute.

However, Network Rail boss Sir Peter Hendy told LBC Radio that he had spoken to the Prime Minister “once or twice” about the walk-out involving some 40,000 of its workers.

He stressed that the industry needed to modernise rather than hang onto some “Victorian” work practices and could no longer rely on the extra billions ploughed into the network to keep it running during the pandemic.

“I find it very difficult to blame the Government for wanting to see the railway run more effectively when we have consumed so much public subsidy in the last two-and-a-half years,” he said. Sir Peter argued that rail workers were being offered an “attractive package” and strikes would be “enormously disruptive”.

Mr Leach earlier accused the Government of “abjectly failing” in its responsibilities and called for more support from the Labour Party over the dispute. He said workers would show “grit and determination” if the industrial action ran for months.

Criticising ministers, he told Radio 4’s Today programme: “They are nowhere to be seen apart from name-calling from the sidelines.”

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said a solution could not be reached without the Department for Transport getting involved.

But Business minister Paul Scully told BBC Radio’s Westminster Hour that RMT boss Mick Lynch should instead be “intensifying negotiations with employers to see how much closer they can get to a negotiated settlement”.

Mr Scully said he could “understand the demand and expectation and hope for pay rises because clearly people up and down the country in other sectors as well are being affected by the rise in the cost of living and the rise of inflation.”

He added: “The fact is that rail workers get paid more than most other sectors, so I would say, let’s not talk about extending this strike for political reasons, for whatever reasons, get round the table because that’s what’s going to protect rail workers.”

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