LONDON (AP) – Most train services across Britain were canceled on Saturday as thousands of rail workers staged the latest in a series of strikes over jobs, wages and working conditions.
The 24-hour strike by 40,000 cleaners, signallers, maintenance workers and station workers was the third in a week and part of a surging wave of strikes by workers demanding wage increases to keep up with inflation, which is at nearly 10%.
According to infrastructure manager Network Rail, only around 20% of train services across the UK were expected to run on Saturday, with the disruption lasting into Sunday morning.
“We know it’s difficult for the public,” said Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union. “But what we’re seeing across the country is more and more people fed up with how they’re being treated at work.
“The rich seem to be getting richer and the poor seem to be getting worse off,” Lynch told Sky News.
Britain is witnessing a growing number of strikes amid the country’s worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.
After a summer of little progress in resolving the rail dispute, talks between unions and management have recently resumed.
Unions accuse the government of preventing rail companies – which are privately owned but heavily regulated – from completing a deal. Lynch urged Transport Minister Anne Marie Trevelyan to “unleash the train operators who are currently taking their mandate directly from you.”
The government denies the interference but says rail companies are having to cut costs and staff after two years in which emergency government funding has kept them afloat.
The government urged unions to work with employers, “not against them”.
“Our railways are in dire need of modernization, but strikes will only punish the people the unions claim to stand up for and push passengers further afield,” the Department for Transport said.