Showdown on Britain’s railways portends a summer of strife

The National Union of Railway, Maritime and Transport Workers is nowhere near one of the largest trade unions in the UK. But this week the RMT, as is well known, aims to show that everything is muscular. Strikes of 40,000 of its members mostly shut down UK railways on Tuesday and are set to do the same on Thursdays and Saturdays, causing widespread disruption between them and inconvenience to millions of people.

Although these Rail vulnerability They will be less burdensome than they were before the plague for some businesses, they will be Still a significant cost charge. Many workplaces cannot work remotely. The city centers, which were hit by the plague, will suffer further blows – and this week is the peak season for the school exams.

When inflation is expected to reach 11 percent, all employers face problems in determining wages. The Ministry of Finance is faced with a complicated version of this riddle: it needs to maintain control over public sector wages, a key driver of the cost of public services. The government is worried that any wage arrangement it agrees on will become a point of truth for the next negotiations.

Wage increases also have implications for inflation, which is particularly worrying at the moment. Public sector wage policy must fill jobs in order to provide public services, but the government also has a responsibility, together with the Bank of England, to avoid a wage-price spiral.

Ministers have indicated they want to strive for a 2 percent pay rise. But from 2010 to 2021, wages in the public sector fell in real terms by 4.3%, before the recent rise in inflation. The Treasury has created a problem for itself by spending a decade trying to blackmail the public sector wage bill.

This, at its core, is why public sector unions are preparing for industrial action. Some of the services – especially treatment, schools and hospitals – were stretched before 2020, and routinely struggled to recruit enough staff. They also spent two years at the sharp end of the plague.

It is clear that conservative ministers are relishing a train battle and have tried, unconvincingly, to accuse Labor of a strike. They may calculate that RMTHaving a tradition of strong confrontation, he is a tougher opponent than many unions, so this battle is one that should be chosen and won.

The government is right to take a rigid initial position. The principle he should strive to determine is that every payroll transaction should be handled according to merit, taking into account the quality of service and staff retention as well as the cost. In this case there is a deal to be made: RMT has a point that the employers’ offer, which reaches a 2 to 3 percent increase, hardly looks generous after two years of freezes. The cost-of-living crisis makes it particularly difficult for the union’s long tail of low-wage workers to join.

But in exchange for any improved offer, the RMT must make concessions to productivity and modernization. The demand for commuters for train transportation is uncertain as more people work from home, and train technology has advanced: skimmers and sensors can now replace some engineers walking up and down the lines to check tracks. After talks on Monday had not yet been agreed, Network Rail wrote to RMT with plans to consult on the issue 1,800 job losses And changes in working methods; He said he hopes most of the layoffs will be voluntary. As part of any arrangement, the union should accept the reality that the industry is changing.

It is part of the government’s responsibility to impose fiscal oversight on behalf of taxpayers, but it should also minimize disruption to passengers and businesses, and keep public services running in the long run.

Showdown on Britain’s railways portends a summer of strife Source link Showdown on Britain’s railways portends a summer of strife

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