In the United Kingdom, new episode of angry strikes against inflation

In the United Kingdom, a new episode of anger strikes over inflation

A security worker watches the empty passenger platforms at Waterloo station on August 18, 2022.

The United Kingdom is experiencing a new round of massive walkouts from Thursday in transport, post, ports… This is the biggest strike movement in decades, which got under way at the start of the summer in the face of the heat. inflation that devours the purchasing power of the British.

In the middle of school holidays, only one train in five was circulating Thursday in the country. Tens of thousands of rail workers were called off work by the RMT, TSSA and Unite unions, and Network Rail, the public network manager, urged users to avoid this mode of transport.

Passengers defying the injunction were sympathetic, however, as widespread price rises, which exceeded 10% last month across the Channel for the first time in more than 40 years, devalue the wages of the British. p>

I'm going to be very late, that's for sure, admitted to AFP Usama Sarda, a dentist in his thirties, who travels to a wedding in the north of the country from London's Euston station. But the strike is right, because inflation is currently at an all-time high, he believes.

Railway workers are people like me, agrees Greg Ellwood, a 26-year-old consultant at Leeds station in northern England. We are all trying to make a living and get by. I have all the sympathy in the world for them, he says.

Passengers check the departure board as the strike disrupts the train network, in London, August 18, 2022.

Rail's biggest strike action since 1989 at the late Thatcher years, could continue indefinitely, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch warned on Thursday, with walkouts by railway workers continuing in episodes since June, due to a lack of a wage agreement.

British workers are fundamentally underpaid, adds the trade unionist, for whom the movement will not be broken and could instead spread to every sector of the economy.

In fact, the movements are multiplying in the country. On Friday, the whole of London's transport network will come to a virtual standstill, with severe disruption throughout the weekend, while another day of train strikes are scheduled for Saturday.

If the strike does not directly involve the staff of Eurostar, the train that uses the Channel Tunnel, the operator has also had to reduce the number of its services due to the reduction of timetables on all UK routes.

Sunday stevedores at the port of Felixstowe in the east of England – the biggest for the cargo in the country – begin an eight-day strike, threatening to shut down much of the country's freight traffic.

Postal workers, employees of the telecommunications operator BT, Amazon handlers, but also criminal lawyers or garbage collectors have also walked out or plan to do so.

The movements could last beyond the summer, and spread to civil servants in education and even health, where the Unite union has tackled miserable wage offers of 4%.

Politicians including ex-Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joined striking railway workers in London on August 18, 2022.

Everywhere the slogan is the same: employees are demanding increases in their pay in line with inflation, which reached 10.1% over one year in July and could exceed 13 % in October.

Prices are notably driven by gas prices, on which the country is very dependent and which soar in the wake of the war in Ukraine, but also by disruptions in supply chains and shortages of workers in the wake of the COVID-19 and Brexit.

Purchasing power is being eaten away by price increases at record speed, demonstrating the vital need for […] defend the value of workers' compensation, says Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, one of the main in the country, in a press release.

Some strikes have however recently been avoided at the last minute, following compensation offers deemed satisfactory, in particular in a refueling company at the airport ;Heathrow or among British Airways ground staff.

In rail, negotiations with the multitude of private operators in the sector are at an impasse, according to the unions, who also rejected an 8% Network Rail wage offer which they accuse of being conditional on mass layoffs.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps, who has refused to get directly involved in the talks, is being singled out by the organizations, accused of not giving the companies a sufficient mandate to negotiate.

Other cause for union anger: the government has just amended the law to allow the use of temporary workers to replace the strikers .

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