The railways will stop again on Wednesday as workers go on strike over wages, job security and working conditions.
The latest negotiations to avoid the action failed last week, one month since the three days of industrial action in June. The strikes involve more than 40,000 workers from Rede Ferroviária, 14 railway companies and members of the Railway Maritime and Transport Union (RMT).
Transport services to London will be affected by the disruption as they use sections of track that are under Network Rail’s jurisdiction. There will also be a strike by members of the Transportation Salaried Employees Association (TSSA), who work for the company Avanti West Coast.
“Network Rail has not made any improvements to its previous salary offer and the rail companies have not offered us anything new,” said RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch. “The government needs to stop its interference in this dispute so that rail employers can reach a negotiated settlement with us.”
Today’s strike came after union leaders rejected a “paltry” offer of a 4% pay rise for the remainder of 2022 from Network Rail and a possible 4% next year if workers accepted changes in working conditions.
The strike collides with summer school holidays, and Network Rail and the government say it could affect the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, which starts on Thursday.
After the strike was announced, Network Rail accused the union of “walking away” from negotiations and said the action could have been avoided. “It’s now pretty clear that your political campaign is taking precedence over representing the interests of your members,” said Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator.
The Conservative government is also pushing ahead with controversial plans to allow companies to replace striking workers with temporary workers.
The latest rail strikes come as broader industrial action is considered across the public sector as workers demand wage increases amid rising cost of living.
Last week, thousands of Royal Mail workers voted to strike in August. Lawyers in England and Wales staged a five-day strike earlier this month, and around 40,000 RMT members, including Network Rail flags and train staff, will strike for a further two days on 18 and 20 August.
Conservative leadership hope Liz Truss has promised a new crackdown on unions, which has been criticized as the “biggest attack on civil rights” since the 19th century.
She said she would introduce a minimum service levels law on critical national infrastructure within the first 30 days of her term, which would restrict teachers, postal workers and the energy sector.
“Truss is proposing to outlaw effective unionism in Britain and rob workers of a fundamental democratic right,” Lynch said. “If these proposals become law, there will be the greatest resistance mounted by the entire trade union movement, rivaling the General Strike of 1926, the Suffragettes and Chartism.”