[PHOTOS] UK: Abandoned stations for biggest rail strike in thirty years

London | The standoff in the UK between railway workers and rail companies continued after the first day of strong mobilization during the sector’s largest strike movement in thirty years, as unions demanded better wages and working conditions.

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Tuesday was the biggest day of mobilization, when one of two lines were closed and four out of five trains in the country were cancelled, as London Underground staff called for an exit and many stations closed.

The strike will continue on Thursday and Saturday in the railways at the call of the transport union RMT. The movement divides opinion, with 37% of Britons supporting it and 45% opposing it, according to a poll published Thursday by YouGov.

RMT announced in a statement late Tuesday afternoon that negotiations between the union and the railway companies will resume on Wednesday. The director of the rail network Network Rail told AFP that the meeting was scheduled for 10 am.

But the RMT warned that its members “will continue the campaign”, considering that “participation in the sit-ins today (Tuesday) was wonderful” and claimed that it “opens the way for all the workers of this country who are tired of seeing their wages and their working conditions go down.”

This strike is “bad and unnecessary” and Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressed his part during a cabinet meeting calling on the “union barons” to come to the negotiating table and the sector to agree to modernization to avoid bankruptcy.

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Mr Johnson also noted that the British government has supported the sector during the pandemic to the tune of £16 billion.

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On Tuesday morning, the Great Hall of London’s King’s Cross station welcomed a small crowd, mostly sympathetic to the railway strike, rather than the usual rush hour rush.

At St Albans station in North London, the first train did not leave until 8 am. Because of the lack of services, Scott, a 43-year-old bank employee, decided to walk for 25 minutes upon his arrival in the capital.

The RMT union warned in early June that more than 50,000 railway employees would be out of work “during the largest sectoral conflict since 1989” and major privatizations of the sector, calling in particular for wage increases in line with accelerating inflation.

In addition to wages, RMT denounces deteriorating working conditions and “thousands of layoffs” planned, he says, by the countless private companies that make up the UK rail sector.

open or not?

Since last week, the CEO has reiterated that this strike will affect countless Britons who are barred from going to work or medical appointments and will affect the accounts of small and medium-sized businesses already battered by Covid-19.

Traders in central London were already seeing the first effects of the strike on Tuesday, with far fewer clients than usual.

Clive Watson, founder of the chain of establishments, explains to the PA Agency: “It’s not worth opening” pubs located near train stations. He estimates turnover will be “20-25% less” than normal this week.

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The strike also threatens to disrupt major sporting and cultural events, such as the Glastonbury Music Festival (southwest of England), the Rolling Stones concert in London on Saturday and final exams for some high school students.

The government also asserts that the strike threatens to encourage more remote work and thus a decrease in the use of trains.

The executive plans to put in place “protections” for public transport users, including “minimum service” or replace strikers, particularly with temporary workers, if the dispute continues.

The strike could already extend to other transportation or other sectors, such as education, health and the post. Some lawyers have already voted to withdraw from next week, due to a row with the government over the amount of legal aid.

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