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Commuters face more disruption as UK’s biggest rail union begins strike

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KENT, UNITED KINGDOM: Rail workers continue their strike over pay, job security and working conditions outside the Dover Priory Station in Kent, United Kingdom on December 16, 2022. (Stuart Brock - Anadolu Agency)
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Dec 16, 2022 - 01:48 PM

LONDON (AA) – Commuters across the UK have been facing massive disruptions as just one in five trains are projected to operate on Friday and Saturday amid fresh strikes hitting the country.

The members of the UK’s biggest rail union (RMT) started their latest industrial action at midnight, which will last 48 hours, with they will also go on strike from 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve until 5.59 a.m. on Dec. 27 after it rejected a pay offer from Network Rail.

Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, told Sky News the impact of the upcoming strikes would be “minimal.”

“We know that the public will be upset and even angry about the disruption. Some of that anger should be put towards the government and the companies, we believe,” he said.

“The railway shuts down on Christmas Eve in any case to do engineering works, so there aren’t scheduled trains on Christmas Day, nor Boxing Day, and the railway curtails its activities early on Christmas Eve,” he said.

Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, previously said the RMT is “playing fast and loose with people’s Christmas plans and the new strike dates announced deliberately target vital engineering work designed to improve the railway.”

London bus drivers also announced industrial action in the run-up to Christmas, with strikes taking place on Dec. 10, and Dec. 15 and an upcoming one on Dec. 17.

Road traffic officers and control room operators working for National Highways Friday also started three weeks of strike action across the country, according to the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.

About 1,000 Border Force workers will also walk out from Friday, Dec. 23, until New Year’s Eve – Saturday, Dec. 31.

A previous government statement said, “military personnel, civil servants and volunteers from across government are being trained to support Border Force at airports and ports across the UK in the event of potential strike action.”

“Border Force is ready to deploy resources to meet critical demand and support flow travelers through the border. However, those entering the UK should be prepared for potential disruption,” it added.

Strikes canceled

Meanwhile, a Eurostar strike has been canceled amid fresh talks over a pay dispute, but further planned strikes are still in place at this point.

Another strike which was supposed to begin Friday at Heathrow airport involving ground handlers has been canceled after last-ditch peace talks.

“Unite will now ballot its members on the revised pay offer,” a written statement by Unite, which is the UK and Ireland’s largest trade union.

Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said: “Unite has been adamant that Menzies (Heathrow employer) was able to offer an improved pay offer and that has proved to be the case. As an act of goodwill, the strike action scheduled to begin tomorrow has been suspended so that members can be balloted on the new offer.”

Britain is currently experiencing a wave of industrial action, including those from nurses, postal workers, and university lecturers, sparked by a bitter cost-of-living crisis triggered by soaring inflation and a deteriorating economy.

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