Latest in string of strikes brings most UK trains to a halt

LONDON (AP) — Most train services across the U.K. were canceled Saturday as thousands of rail workers staged the latest in a string of strikes over jobs, pay and working conditions.

The 24-hour walkout by 40,000 cleaners, signalers, maintenance workers and station staff was the third in a week, and part of a surging wave of strikes from workers seeking pay raises to keep up with inflation that is running at almost 10%.

Only about 20% of train services were expected to operate across the U.K. on Saturday, according to infrastructure operator Network Rail, with disruption spilling over into Sunday morning.

“We know that it’s difficult for the public,” said Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union. “But what we see around the country are more and more people who are fed up with the way they are being treated at work.

“The rich seem to be getting richer and the poor seem to be worse off all the time,” Lynch told Sky News.

Britain is seeing a growing number of strikes amid the country’s worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.

After a summer with little progress in resolving the rail dispute, talks between unions and management have recently resumed.

Unions accuse the government of preventing train companies — which are privately owned but heavily regulated — from making a deal. Lynch urged Transport Secretary Anne Marie Trevelyan to “unshackle the train operators who currently take their mandate directly from yourself.”

The government denies meddling, but says rail companies need to cut costs and staffing after two years in which emergency government funding kept them afloat.

The government urged unions to work with employers, “not against them.”

“Our railway is in desperate need of modernization, but all strikes will do is punish the very people unions claim to stand up for and push passengers further away,” the Department for Transport said.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.