The rail strike – which began at midnight on Monday – is one of three 24-hour strikes planned this week, with walkouts also planned for Thursday and Saturday. Official advice to the public is to avoid travel altogether, with less than a fifth of trains due to run across Network rain and 13 other rail operators.
Talks to try to avoid the strikes between union and employer representatives failed on Monday night, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of a breakthrough.
The RMT rail union has asked for a pay rise for workers of at least seven percent to offset the cost of living crisis, but said employers have offered a maximum of three percent, with a condition they also accept job cuts and changes to working practices.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to accuse unions of “driving away commuters who ultimately support the jobs of rail workers” in a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.
He will say: “Too high demands on pay will also make it incredibly difficult to bring to an end the current challenges facing families around the world with rising costs of living.
“Now is the time to come to a sensible compromise for the good of the British people and the rail workforce.”
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said staff were being asked to accept thousands of job cuts, reduced pensions, worse terms and conditions and a cut in real-terms pay amid the worsening cost of living crisis.
He said the “dead hand” of the Government had been actively preventing employers and the union from reaching a settlement, although ministers have denied playing a role in talks.
Mr Lynch said industrial action would run “as long as it needs to”, indicating that strikes could last months if a deal was not reached.
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