Rail workers in Britain will go on strike today, protesting pay freezes and job cuts.
Today is the third strike this week by 50,000 members of the Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers union. Members say their wages have not kept up with inflation and fear job cuts. Union representatives have been negotiating with rail companies, but no progress has been made.
Britain’s railways, and the transportation sector more broadly, were hard hit by the pandemic. Ticket sales have dropped 25% from pre-pandemic levels. This has led to decreased revenues, increased government expenditure and pay stagnation. While the current Conservative government condemns the strike for freezing commuting during one of the busiest periods of the year, they refuse to step in to negotiations.
Expect major travel disruptions across the country for the next day. Short-term, it is likely rail workers will receive some concessions granting them higher wages. Nevertheless, consumer confidence in the rail network will take a serious hit. Medium-term, protests threaten to jeopardize the railway’s post-pandemic recovery as other forms of transportation are seen as more reliable. Long-term, reforms in railway labor contracts may further inspire other labor groups to renegotiate, possibly damaging the government’s credibility for refusing negotiations.
Wescott is a Copy-Editor and Senior Analyst. His thematic focuses are international security, politics, economics and public policy.