Thousands of railroad workers went on strike for the second time in a week on Thursday after talks failed to resolve a bitter dispute over wages, jobs and working conditions.
Union Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) members at Network Rail and 13 train operators will go on strike, damaging services across the UK.
Only one of the five trains will run and mostly on the main lines during the day.
In the run-up to the strike, the government announced plans to change the law to allow businesses to provide skilled agency workers to fill the shortage during strikes.
We will continue our industrial campaign until we have an agreed agreement that provides job security and pay increases for our members to help manage the worsening cost-of-living crisis.Mick Lynch, RMT
The ministers pointed out that, under current union law, employment businesses are prohibited from providing temporary agency workers to cover strikers, stating that this could have a “disproportionate impact”.
The legislation will remove “burdensome” legal restrictions, giving strike-hit businesses the freedom to use employment services that can provide qualified agency temporary staff on short notice, the government said.
Network Rail welcomed the move, but Labor and unionists denounced it as a “recipe for disaster”.
The RMT accused Transportation Minister Grant Shapps of “wrecking” the talks.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: “Grant Shapps derailed these negotiations by preventing Network Rail from withdrawing its letter threatening to fire 2,900 of our members.
“Until the government releases Network Rail and the railroad companies, it will not be possible to reach a negotiated settlement.
“We will continue our industrial campaign until we have a negotiated agreement that provides job security and pay increases for our members to cope with the worsening cost-of-living crisis.”
Mr Shapps hit back, saying the RMT statement was “a lie”.
Meanwhile, members of the Aslef drivers union in Greater England will strike on Thursday in a separate wage dispute.
The company, which was also hit by the RMT strike, advised passengers to travel only when necessary.
The Transportation Employees Association (TSSA) announced that its members at Merseyrail have accepted a 7.1% pay offer.
General Secretary Manuel Cortés said: “This clearly shows that our union and sister unions are in no way obstructing the search for the solutions necessary to avoid summer discontent on the railways.
“Rather, this government intends to rest on its heels. Grant Shapps would be wise to start talking seriously to our union as we vote to strike on our railroads across the country.”
Rail Delivery Group spokesperson: “With passenger numbers still at just 80% of pre-pandemic levels, the industry remains committed to a fair wage deal, charging taxpayers no more than its fair share.
We encourage RMT management to continue negotiations so that we can secure a prosperous long-term future for the railroad and its workforce.Rail Delivery Group
“We can only achieve this by making improvements – like offering better services on Sundays – that reflect changing passenger needs so we can bring more back.
“We encourage RMT management to continue negotiations so that we can secure a prosperous long-term future for the railroad and its workforce.
“Our advice to passengers remains the same: travel by rail only when absolutely necessary, check before you travel and make sure you know your first and last train times.”
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are disappointed that RMT has once again decided to back out of negotiations without a deal. We remain available for negotiations – day or night – and will do our best to avoid further disruption for our passengers.
“As a result of this unnecessary and premature strike, rail traffic will look the same as on Tuesday – starting later in the morning and ending much earlier in the evening (around 18:30).
“We ask passengers to check before traveling, know when your last available train departs, and only travel by train when necessary.”