Rail strikes across Britain: FT readers share their views

Network Rail staff and workers at 13 UK rail operating companies walked out twice this week over pay, working practices and possible redundancies, with another strike scheduled for Saturday. London Underground staff also went on strike on Tuesday.

The announcement of the strikes sparked hundreds of comments from FT readers, with opinions split between those who supported the railway workers to defend themselves and those who felt they were seeking preferential treatment and that the unions had too many power.

Opinions on the effects of the strikes ranged from commentators who said working from home had diminished the power of the RMT union, to a mother who said the delays were creating a new group of conservative voters among frustrated schoolchildren.

There was talk of a ‘summer of discontent’ in the UK, as public sector unions representing doctors, nurses and teachers also tested the sentiment of the walkout, and readers focused on pay and job themes. inflation. Some said higher pay would increase the rate of price growth, while others argued that the rising cost of living meant workers had no choice but to demand more. money to survive.

British economics writer Cat Rutter Pooley concluded that tensions between industries were inevitable, but employers could do better than the government “if they pay when they can, be candid when they can’t and play nice”. .

A series of reader comments are posted below. Join the conversation by sharing your views in the comments section.

Why should workers pay the price?

I am 100% behind the strikers. Any pay increase of less than 11% is a pay cut. Why should workers pay the price for deliberate asset price inflation by the government and the Bank for 20 years? If the government wants 2% wage increases, then it should offer 2% inflation. But of course they won’t, because that would risk driving down the asset prices of wealthy baby boomers. So inflation is for Britain, and workers shouldn’t be fooled. – The Sad Truth

The workforce is quite “hacked”

Unions would be downright negligent to accept what seems to be on offer now: “accept changes in work practices to make us more efficient and as a reward you can get a 2% pay raise when inflation is 10 % and more “. It must be pointed out that there was a huge majority for this strike ballot, which suggests that the workforce is pretty hacked and that it is not just the militant hard left union leaders who are causing problems for the pleasure of doing it. — Medium rare earth

Unprecedented reduction in real profits

If inflation peaks at 11%, as the BoE claims, and the government remains determined to offer only 1 or 2% in public sector wage increases, this will be the most colossal and unprecedented cut. real incomes of millions of ordinary workers. . It is outrageous that ordinary people should pay such a high price for the mistakes of Andrew Bailey and Rishi Sunak.

Increase interest, high and fast. Real estate prices are collapsing. Tax land/wealth/property, not income. It’s not hard to figure out, but they won’t. — Eren.B

RMT support

Solidarity with the RMT. I sincerely hope that other unions will follow their example and fight for decent wages and conditions. Austerity and below-inflation wage increases have gone on for far too long, while the rich accumulate immense wealth. —RoyBoy

No worker strikes lightly

No worker strikes lightly. It is time to listen to what they say rather than to oppose it for ideological reasons. Many workers accepted a wage freeze and did their part after the financial crash. This position is no longer tenable with inflation as high as it is. – Willow

Don’t fall into the trap of divide and conquer

Don’t fall into the trap of pessimism and divide and conquer. Low wage increases suck and we should do everything in our power to fight them. The RMT does exactly that. Their demands aren’t exactly ridiculous either, it’s something like inflation + 2%. Unless you’re a wealthy multi-millionaire, we all have more in common with the average RMT worker than you might think. Supporting people demanding better wages — Londoner_123

Correlation between strikes and inflation

There is a strong historical correlation between the rate of inflation and the frequency and intensity of industrial action.

If we don’t want a strike (and I think there are demands/behaviours in strikes that don’t help the workers’ case), then the first point of call is not to mismanage an economy at point that inflation goes up that high with no pay rises following. — BW Kent

class war

The real “modernization” would be a capital investment in tracks, trains, signaling and stations. This requires a long-term financial strategy that does not “lean on”.

Until then, as always, we seem to expect the men and women who hold the system together (and their families) to make all the sacrifices.

This is “class warfare” and we need more of it if we are to survive. — Scouse Gland

something must give

We have inflation, something has to give: should we push for higher wages and lower profit margins or defend corporate profit margins? —Mauritius

I can’t have it both ways

On the one hand, you say the government (or whoever) should keep inflation low, but on the other, you urge workers to seek anti-inflationary wage increases that massively increase the likelihood of a wage/inflation spiral. You can’t have it both ways. — Person with a brain

Crush the unions

We can’t keep handing out money to everyone who throws a strop. Crush the union style of the 1970s. The population wants normal service after the last two years. The unions are political organizations that simply seek to slap the Tories and show they can’t make Britain work, paving the way for left-wing Labour. Crush the unions and start the flights to Rwanda, then cut the taxes. Vote for winning policies! —SNC

Little sympathy for the strikers

I’m sorry but I have little sympathy for the strikers. Yes, low pay raises suck, but that’s what most people face.

And demand that there be no layoffs? In what imaginary country do these people live? Currently unemployment is at an all time low and there are record vacancies, if you are unhappy with your job go somewhere else like most normal people do. Don’t paralyze the whole country and massively disrupt life, economy and society.

For better or for worse, travel habits have changed and this has led to less train travel. Where is the money to pay for all the strikes demand? — Badger

Huge wage hikes are unsustainable

Huge pay raises are not sustainable. Any salary increase should be around 1/3 salary increase, 2/3 bonus. When inflation declines, compensation will be more likely to be on a sustainable path. – Shotgun

We all suffer

Trade unionists are just another group of people who think we are back to the 1970s. But society has changed and there is far less sympathy for their plight, at a time when we are all suffering from high costs and wages that do not keep up with inflation. The strike is a selfish and short-sighted way to help the UK get back on its feet. — Tazzyjoolz

The WFH undermined the power of this union

I don’t understand why this industry should be immune to involuntary dismissal when it is a common practice elsewhere. This is a key aspect of the strike so no sympathy from me. I also think redundancy is less of an issue with such a strong job market.

That said, the WFH undermined the power of this union. I feel for those who cannot telecommute and suggest this is another reason to ensure a diverse transportation system is maintained. Do not cut bus lines in London. —LondonLad

No pay raise just to do my job

I have only ever worked in the private sector and in the past six years I have never had a pay raise just for time spent doing my job or for cost of living reasons. I’ve only gotten pay raises by changing employers or agreeing to take on more work — and the effective rate of pay for the overtime that extra work adds to my week turned out to be no good. be not much above the minimum wage — especially when you take into account the 40% income tax rate. —RonaldoMcDonaldo

A young new breed of curators

[My son’s journey to school] took 1 hour 30 mins by bus when normally by train and bus it would take 35 mins.

As a result, a new breed of conservatives is about to arise. It is the school children who talk over lunch about the madness of seeing the unions paralyze the country and upset so many people. Perfect location to build youth support for the Conservatives in the upcoming election. — Normal Foxy 4

Work practices

Outdated labor practices are not just about the railroads. . .

Parliament, too, with a touch of pot calling the black kettle! —Brentry Ed

Union jealousy?

Aren’t we secretly jealous that the railroad workers have a union and we don’t? — Mich_L

Comments have been edited for length and style

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