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Strike hits UK railways as workers demand pay rise above worst inflation in 40 years

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LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - Mick Lynch Secretary-General of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers and ASLEF rail workers takes part in RMT industrial action over pay and work conditions severely affecting the national rail network in London, United Kingdom on October 01, 2022. (Ray Tang - Anadolu Agency)
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Oct 03, 2022 - 01:00 AM

ASHFORD, UK (AA) – Thousands of railway workers in the UK went on strike Saturday amid economic turmoil and a cost of living crisis in the country.

The two biggest workers’ unions, RMT and ASLEF, organized the strike that paralyzed travel as workers demanded a pay raise on their terms and better working conditions.

The unions called for the strike after talks stalled with the government and rail companies.

They say salaries should increase to reflect the rising cost of living as the country has seen the worst inflation rate, 10%, in the past 40 years.

Network Rail said the offer they made represents 8% over two years but depends on workers accepting its modernization plans. The RMT said the offer represents a real terms pay cut.

Anadolu Agency visited Ashford International Station in Kent, which is closed because of the industrial action.

“We haven’t had a pay increase since 2019 and we are all struggling. People are not sitting down talking,” said RMT union member, Suzanne Lewis. “Until they sit down with our leader, Mick Lynch, and talk properly, there are going to be strikes all the time.”

Another member, Chris Joyce, suggested that the cost of living crisis has created conditions not seen since the 1950s.

“I have never known food poverty in this country, we are going back to the 1950s and it’s disastrous. Lots of different unions are on strike today as part of the enough is enough campaign,” he said.

CWU member, Aubery John said: “It’s gonna be a difficult winter for everyone — it already is. We don’t want to strike, we have been forced to strike, no one can afford to take a pay cut.”

Justin Mulcahy, also from CWU, said: “Enough is enough, I’ve been working for Royal Mail for 30 years and this is the hardest strike action we have ever done.”

The disruption on railways caused inconvenience for many travelers.

Daniel had bought a train ticket online 9 minutes previously, only to turn up at the station with his young daughter to find it closed, with no trains running.

“Poor little Mia, you’re not going to see granny today,” he said.

Daniel said he was not supportive of the strike.

“If everyone gets a pay rise, the cost of living just keeps spiraling out of control, they have been offered a good deal.”

Hannah, who planned on going to London, said she supported the strike.

“I’m French, so we strike a lot back home,” and felt that things had to change in the country,” she said. “Not just fuel poverty, food is getting expensive, clothes are getting expensive.”

It seems like the UK is headed for a difficult winter, with multiple workforces facing disruption and industrial action on a scale not seen in years.

All this is adding to the general feeling of worry and uncertainty about the rising cost of living and a government that seems to prefer tax cuts for the rich, to tackling issues such as fuel poverty.

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