'The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation'
The biggest rail strikes to hit Britain in 30 years have kicked off today, with tens of thousands of staff walking out over pay, conditions and government cuts.
More than 40,000 RMT members, including signallers, maintenance and train staff, have walked out, and are also due to strike on Thursday and Saturday.
Unions have also warned that the strikes could mark a summer of discontent, with teachers, medics, waste disposal workers and even barristers moving towards industrial action as surging food and fuel prices push inflation towards 10%.
The RMT, which represents rail workers ranging from catering staff to signallers, is calling for a pay rise of at least 7%. The union says that employers have only offered a 2% rise with the possibility of 1% more, only on the condition that workers accept proposed job cuts and changes to working practices.
The union said in a statement: “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.”
RMT chief Mick Lynch told LBC he was “unhappy” the action was necessary but said workers had been left with no choice.
Addressing concerns that critical workers, including nurses, had been prevented from getting to work, he said that many were “suffering from the same things as our members” with job insecurity, low pay and poor conditions.
The union boss also hit out at the government for telling “a pack of lies about our people and a pack of lies about this industry”.
“Rather than telling lies about our members and about the state of this industry, they need to give the companies a mandate to negotiate so that we can settle this deal,” he said.
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.
We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.