Britain’s leading trade unionists will hold a rally in London next week in the middle of a string of train strikes designed to bring the country to a standstill.
‘Enough is Enough,’ a union-led group that also includes Labour MP Zarah Sultana, has been set up to protest against the rising cost of living. Wednesday’s event in Clapham, south London, will kick off a series of 50 rallies across Britain.
Unions have announced four days of major strikes across the transport system starting with tomorrow’s walkout at nine train operating companies. After the rally, strikes will also be held from Thursday through to Saturday encompassing rail, London’s subway system and also buses in parts of the capital.
Enough is Enough has gathered 300,000 signatures of support in three days, according to a statement Friday. The group has five key demands: a real-terms pay rise for workers, cuts to energy bills, an end to food poverty, construction of more-affordable homes, and higher taxes for top earners.
Headliners at the campaign’s first rally include Mick Lynch and Eddie Dempsey of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, who have both become high-profile figures as labor groups strike over pay. Lynch has said he would support a general strike.
The RMT is leading next week’s transport strikes as workers at Network Rail and 14 train operators strike on Aug. 18 and 20 while London Underground workers and some bus drivers strike on Aug. 19.
Rising costs and forecasts for soaring winter energy bills are leading to what some are calling a summer of discontent in the UK, with workers from train drivers to postal staff and barristers already planning walkouts. There are also increasing cases of “wildcat” strikes, especially at factories and industrial plants.
Tensions between bosses and labor groups are heightened. The train drivers’ union Aslef accused a minister and train operator Avanti of lying when they blamed “unofficial” labor action for a drastic reduction in services on the West Coast Main Line linking London with Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland. The union said a full timetable depends on drivers working overtime, which they are not obliged to do.
Ahead of tomorrow’s walkout, Aslef boss Mick Whelan said “strikes are always a last resort” but added: “the companies, and the government, have, I’m afraid, forced our hand.”
This week, Royal Mail Plc accused the Communication Workers Union of “an abdication of responsibility” for continuing to oppose reforms, saying it will sustain a full-year loss if 115,000 postal staff go ahead with a planned strike over pay.
Workers at Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest container ship port, plan to strike for eight days this month after failing to reach a pay deal, threatening to sever one of the UK’s most important trade routes. Shipping could see further disruption with a decision on whether to strike over pay at Liverpool’s dock due at the start of next week.