UK unions threaten to fight for higher wages with UK general strike

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In the battle for higher wages and job security on British railways, unions are toughening their tone. The Secretary-General of the National Federation of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), Mick Lynch, threatened a general strike if the government significantly restricted the right to strike as announced. That would be “the greatest resistance to the entire union movement” in history, says Lynch.

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The RMT and Aslef train drivers’ union have called on their members of the state-owned Network Rail and several private railway companies to go on strike. On Wednesday, 40,000 workers were laid off, causing traffic problems across the country. The drivers went on strike on Saturday. Both unions are calling for a multi-day strike in August as well. They are clearly demanding higher wages and job security. “We want an increase in line with longevity, we want to be able to buy what we can buy in 2021 in 2022,” Aslef’s Mick Whelan told The Guardian.

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But the British government refuses to participate in the talks. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has denounced the unions as “hard-line” and wants companies affected by the strikes to be allowed to hire cheap labor on short notice. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary and favorite in the race to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister, has also announced that he wants to break the unions’ power. “It is completely wrong for travelers to be held hostage by hard-line unions,” Minister Truss said on Tuesday, according to the Guardian. “I will crack down on union actions that don’t help people move forward in life.”

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“Liz Truss’ proposals amount to the largest attack on union and civil rights since unions were legalized in 1871. Truss proposes making effective labor unions in Britain illegal and denying workers an important democratic right,” said trade unionist Lynch, also according to The Guardian. Francis O’Grady, the head of the Trade Union Conference (TUC) told the Financial Times on Thursday that the Conservative government would attack basic rights for workers.

Dismissed – Temporarily released

The opposition also angered the unions. Shadow Transport Minister Sam Tarry was fired by Labor leader Keir Starmer after he joined an RMT strike sit-in and criticized government policies on the part of workers in a radio interview. By making statements about wages and inflation, which do not fit Labour’s lines, Tarrey had crossed the line, the Guardian wrote. Labor says it has always been on the side of workers, but maintains that the performance of senior politicians is subject to convention. The unions were angry.

Megan Vasquez

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