There has not been a major rail strike in Britain since 1989, with tens of thousands of workers walking down their jobs. They demand a wage increase above inflation. Prime Minister Johnson calls the demand excessive. Chaotic scenes play out in rush-hour traffic.
The biggest train strike in more than 30 years has slowed down a number of commuters in Great Britain. According to the RMT union, a total of more than 50,000 members took part in the work stoppages, which are also intended to reinforce the demand for a strong increase in wages due to record inflation on Thursday and Saturday.
Last talks to avert the strike failed on Monday evening. On that Tuesday, at the beginning of the first day of the strike, chaotic scenes took place in rush-hour traffic: while in many places only a limited service could be maintained and many train and underground stations remained deserted, long queues formed at bus stops in the London suburbs, while cars and buses were jammed on the streets. Taxi companies noticed an increasing demand. But the situation was also calm in parts. "People are working from home," reported a newsagent at the train station in the commuter town of St. Albans, north of London.
According to the RMT union, the rail strike is the biggest since 1989. The unions are demanding significantly more money. RMT Secretary General Mick Lynch dismissed offers from employers for below-inflation increases as "unacceptable". In April, consumer price inflation in Great Britain reached nine percent compared to the same month last year, the highest level in around 40 years.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the striking railway workers against what he saw as excessive salary demands. Increases that compensate for the increase in the cost of living are "currently not feasible across the board," said Johnson in London. His conservative government condemned the strikes as "wrong and unnecessary". Johnson accused the unions of harming the very people they were supposed to be helping with their actions.
Andrew Haines, the boss of the train operator Network Rail, apologized in the BBC interview to the tens of thousands of passengers who have to switch to other modes of transport this week. In addition to the Network Rail connections, the trains of around a dozen other train operators are also canceled. However, trade unionist John Leach stressed in an interview with the broadcaster TalkTV: "We cannot get involved in something that is almost eight percent behind inflation - that is absolutely unacceptable." Of course, we regret the disruption and inconvenience to passengers.