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Britain

We can’t allow unions to win over rail strikes, UK deputy prime minister says

the first day of national rail strike in london
File photo: Waterloo station during a railway strike day

Britain‘s deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said on Wednesday that the government couldn’t allow “militant unions” to win over rail strikes, warning that their demands could lead to an inflationary spiral.

Over 40,000 rail staff walked out on the first day of Britain‘s biggest rail strike in 30 years on Tuesday, as millions of passengers facing days more chaos. 

“We can’t allow, I’m afraid, the unions, in this very militant way that they’ve proceeded, to win this argument because it will only hurt the poorest in our society,” Raab told Sky News.

“It is the lowest paid who suffer the most from strike action, and also if we get into this inflationary spiral that the union’s demands would lead to.”

Employees on the British train network around Liverpool have voted to accept a 7.1% pay rise, a union said on Wednesday, after the first day of massive strikes across the region over pay.

“What this clearly shows is our union, and sister unions, are in no way a block on finding the solutions needed to avoid a summer of discontent on the railways,” the head of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association union, Manuel Cortes, said in a statement on the Merseyrail deal.

The government and the Bank of England have urged companies not to set high wage increases over fears it will entrench inflation in the system. Official data on Wednesday showed consumer price inflation hit a 40-year-high of 9.1% last month.

But the soaring prices have prompted workers across a string of sectors to move towards industrial action. Millions of passengers were impacted on Tuesday when rail workers walked out of the job. Two more days of walkouts are planned this week.

The main RMT rail union is asking for pay rises of 7% while it has rejected an offer of 2% with a further 1% tied to job cuts by its employers.

As of 0911 GMT, the Merseyrail’s official website still showed that no trains were due to run on June 23 and June 25 due to the strikes. The TSSA did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Merseyrail employs around 1,200 people and operates over 600 regular services per day, it says.

Soaring food prices pushed British consumer price inflation to a new 40-year high last month of 9.1%, the highest rate out of the Group of Seven countries and underlining the severity of the cost-of-living crunch. 

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