There was no agreement and the national rail strike in the United Kingdom will continue: it is the largest and most disruptive in 30 years

The Railway, Maritime and Transport Union accused the government of “ruining” Wednesday’s talks (REUTERS / John Sibley) (JOHN SIBLEY /)

Great Britain will face the second of three national rail strikes on Thursday after what new negotiations between the union and the employers ended in deadlock.

The Railway, Shipping and Transport Union accused the government of “ruining” Wednesday’s talks and said it the 24-hour strike by 40,000 cleaners, signalmen, maintenance workers and station staff would go ahead as planned. The union action this week is Britain’s biggest and most disruptive rail strike in 30 years.

Railway infrastructure company Network Rail said it was “disappointed that RMT has again chosen to walk away from negotiations. We remain available for chats, day or night.”

The union staged a one-day strike on Tuesday that brought the UK rail network to a halt, with only a fifth of passenger services in operation. Another strike is planned for Saturday.

The dispute centers on wages, working conditions and job security, as British railway companies aim to cut costs and staff after two years in which government emergency funds kept them afloat.

The strike pits the union against 13 private train operating companies and the government-owned National Rail. While Britain’s Conservative government insists it is not involved in the dispute, the union says it plays a major role in the heavily regulated industry.

The dispute centers on pay, working conditions and job security, as British rail companies seek to cut costs and staff (REUTERS/John Sibley)
The dispute focuses on pay, working conditions and job security, as British railway companies seek to cut costs and staff (REUTERS / John Sibley) (JOHN SIBLEY /)

The first Minister Boris Johnson has directly blamed the union for the strike.

The leader of the rail union, General Secretary Mick Lynch, said the government had “ruined these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw its letter threatening to sack 2,900 of our members”.

He said there could be no deal unless the government agreed to “unchain” the train companies and allow them to offer the union better terms than the 3% wage increase that has been tabled so far. Britain’s inflation rate reached 9.1% in May, as Russia‘s war in Ukraine cuts energy and food staples supplies, even as post-pandemic consumer demand soars.

The government warned that large increases would cause a spiral of prices and wages that would drive inflation even higher.

Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps said the union’s claim that he had meddled was “a total lie”. “I have had absolutely nothing to do with a letter being issued by Network Rail, the employer, to the RMT, or any request to withdraw it,” he said.

The unions have told the country to prepare for more, as workers face the worst cost-of-living reduction in more than a generation. Lawyers are planning a strike, and unions representing teachers and postal workers plan to consult their members about possible action.

(With information from AP)

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