New transport strikes hit the UK and mainland Europe
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London (AFP) – Britain’s rail system came to a virtual standstill again on Saturday and flights in Europe were halted as strikes in the travel industry hit the continent.
Tens of thousands of railway workers across the UK staged the latest one-day strike over pay and job security, hampering weekend plans for those already affected by similar strikes on Tuesday and Thursday.
Only about a fifth of services are expected to operate on heavily reduced hours, with those still operating much later in the morning than usual and expected to end as early as 6:30 p.m. (1730 GMT).
Rail union RMT insists this week’s actions are necessary as wages have not kept pace with inflation in the UK, which has hit a 40-year high and is on track to continue to rise increase.
He also wants the threat of mandatory layoffs removed.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said its members were “standing up for all workers trying to get a pay rise and some job security”.
“In a modern economy, workers need to be properly rewarded for their work, provided with good conditions and assured that their jobs will not be taken away from them,” he added.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines said: “Unfortunately the RMT’s decision to carry out another day of unnecessary and premature strike action means our passengers will suffer again on Saturday.
“A fraction of trains will run compared to a usual Saturday service, with trains starting later in the morning and ending much earlier in the evening.”
Britain, like much of Europe, is suffering from runaway inflation and stagnant economic growth, raising the prospect of a summer of strikes across the continent.
Staff at Irish budget airline Ryanair staged strikes in Spain, Italy, France, Portugal and Belgium on Saturday.
It forced the cancellation of two flights between Lisbon and Brussels, while in Spain transport union USO said 75 flights were canceled from six different locations.
The union also denounced the fact that striking staff had been replaced by workers brought in from Morocco, a tactic it called illegal because it violated the right to strike.
In Belgium, the walkout meant that only 41% of Ryanair flights left Charleroi airport near Brussels on Saturday. Since Friday, the low-cost airline has been forced to cancel 127 flights, an airport spokeswoman told AFP.
The situation in Belgium was further complicated by a three-day strike by Brussels Airlines staff that ended on Saturday. This has forced the carrier, which is owned by German giant Lufthansa, to cancel 60% – or around 300 – of its flights since Thursday.
Ryanair flights were also canceled in France on Saturday. Damien Mourgues, from the SNPNC union, said 36 out of 80 flights had been canceled due to a flight attendant walkout.
Bordeaux and Marseille airports announced respectively that 9 and 12 flights would be canceled on Sunday.
The aviation sector is struggling to recover from the pandemic, which has led to mass layoffs as international travel has been suspended.
Faced with a staff shortage, Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam was forced to announce earlier this month that it would limit the number of travelers this summer and cancel flights.
The shortages have already resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights, while huge queues have angered travellers.
© 2022 AFP