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British Rail Strike Begins, Splits the Labour Party

June 21, 2022 (EIRNS)—The rail strike in Great Britain has begun, shutting down 80% of rail service. In addition, the London Underground also began a one-day strike on June 21. While the rail strike will last for three days, it is only the opening phase of the union’s job action. If the demands are not met, strikes could go on for months. It is just the beginning of what is being called a “summer of discontent,” and it has already split the Labour Party, with Labour MPs defying the party leader to join the picket lines.

Rail Maritime and Transport Union General Secretary Mick Lynch has made clear that it is the government which is blocking any deal, by telling the Network Rail—a public sector company— and the train operating companies which it manages, to find savings, as fare revenue has fallen since COVID. Lynch told BBC’s Newsnight on June 20 that Network Rail had offered a 2% pay raise with the possibility of a further 1% later, dependent on efficiency savings. Not only is the government not offering a reasonable wage increase, but has

“issued me a letter saying that there are going to be redundancies starting from July 1. So, rather than trying to come to an agreement in this dispute, they’ve escalated it by giving us formal notice of redundancy amongst our Network Rail members....

“It is clear that the Tory government, after slashing £4 billion of funding from National Rail and Transport for London, has now actively prevented a settlement to this dispute. The rail companies have now proposed pay rates that are massively under the relevant rates of inflation, coming on top of the pay freezes of the past few years,”

Lynch said.

The strike promises to be a major trade union and wider political action that Britain has not witnessed for decades. Even the 84-year-old Arthur Scargill, who led the famous mine workers strike in the 1980s, had joined the picket line. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer, a sort of Tony Blair-light, ordered Labour MPs not to go on the picket line, fearing they will alienate moderate voters in the next election, but that order was quickly defied, as 16 MPs joined the strikers. Former party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted his full support and will no doubt eventually join the picket lines, where members of his faction are already.

The strike could spread, as the teachers and hospital workers unions have given the government a June 22 deadline to respond to their demands, or they will call for a strike vote of union members.

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