Europe

In the UK, inflation triggers a new wave of strikes


Massive new walkouts began on Thursday in the UK in transport, post and ports to protest against the decline in purchasing power that Britons have been facing since this summer.

Mass walkouts among railway workers, postmen, dockers. The United Kingdom has been facing, since Thursday August 18, a new round of massive walkouts in transport, post and ports. It is the biggest strike movement in decades which has continued since the start of the summer in the face of inflation which is devouring 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 being called off by the RMT and TSSA and Unite unions. Network Rail, the public operator of the network, encouraged users to avoid this mode of transport.

The passengers who defied the injunction were nevertheless understanding, while the general price increases, which exceeded 10% last month across the Channel for the first time in more than 40 years, devalue the wages of the British.


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“We are all trying to make a living”

“I am going to be very late, that’s for sure,” recognizes AFP Usama Sarda, a dentist in his thirties, who goes to a marriage in the north of the country from London of Euston station . But the strike “is right, because inflation is currently at an all-time high,” he said.

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

The biggest rail strike movement since 1989, at the end of the Thatcher years, could “go on indefinitely”, warns the general secretary of the RMT, Mick Lynch, with walkouts by railway workers continuing in episodes since June, for lack of agreement salary.

“British workers are essentially underpaid,” adds the trade unionist, for whom the movement “will not be broken” and could on the contrary extend to “each sector of the economy”.

In fact, movements are multiplying in the country. On Friday, the entire London transport network will be almost paralyzed, and will remain very disrupted throughout the weekend while another day of train strike is scheduled for Saturday.

“Miserable”

If the strike does not directly imply the staff of the Eurostar, the train which borrows the under the Channel, the operator also had to reduce the number of its services due to the reduction of the schedules on the Set of British lines

Sunday, the Dockers of the port of Felixstowe (east of England) – the biggest for freight in the country – trigger an eight -day strike, threatening to stop a large part of the traffic of goods in the country.

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

Movements for for arterers last beyond summer, and propel the propagator to teaching officials or health, where Unit tackled “miserable” wage offers of 4%.

Everywhere the watchword is the same: employees demand revaluations of their remuneration in line with inflation, which reached in July 10.1 % over a year and could exceed 13 % in October.

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

“Workers’ Compensation”

Purchasing power is being eroded by price increases at record speed, which “demonstrates the vital need (…) to defend the value of workers’ compensation”, assures in a press release Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, one of the main ones in the country.

Some strikes have however recently been interrupted at the last minute, following offers of remuneration considered satisfactory, in particular in a refueling company at Heathrow airport or among the ground staff of British Airways.

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

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

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

With AFP

Europe 1

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