UK rail strikes 'unnecessary,' 'terrible idea': Prime Minister Johnson
Tens of thousands of workers stage week's second protest over salaries, planned job cuts
The British government on Thursday branded the ongoing rail strikes in the country “unnecessary” and a “terrible idea.”
Around 40,000 workers walked out from their posts on Thursday for the second time this week, demanding better pay and withdrawal of a government plan to cut jobs.
“I just think it is important to remember that these strikes are unnecessary,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, where he is for a summit of Commonwealth leaders.
“I think people should get around the table and sort it out,” he added, urging union and railway bosses to reach an agreement over pay hikes for workers.
Johnson stressed the need for “some sensible reforms,” including the proposal to close ticket offices after digitizing all train tickets.
“It is stuff that maybe the union barons are more attached to perhaps than their workers,” Johnson said.
“I think the strikes are a terrible idea.”
Only one in five trains was running in England, Scotland, and Wales on the second strike day.
Network Rail said the number of people using its stations on the first day of the rail strikes on Tuesday was between 12% and 18% of normal levels, according to British daily The Times.
The strikes by railway and London Underground workers have disrupted travel across the country and the capital, with most commuters preferring to work from home – a practice millions got used to during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
This week's strikes will continue with another walkout planned for Saturday.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), meanwhile, served a notice of a ballot for more strikes during the summer, with workers due to start voting this month until mid-July.
If the vote carries, strikes are expected to begin by the end of July.
The union has demanded a guarantee against forced redundancies and pay raises to help people through the cost of living crisis.