The rail sector industrial action ramps up again as today marks the second strike of this week, resulting in heavily disrupted services due to the thousands of railway workers walking out. The walkouts have been spread across Network Rail and 13 operators, with the staff disillusioned by a failure to resolve the ongoing row over a desired 7% pay rise as well as the overall job security within the sector.
It is estimated that the striking will leave just one in five trains running along its usual route, with many of these vehicles being restricted to the main lines across the country as half of the network remains closed off.
Whilst there was no industrial action yesterday, the loss of overnight signallers from the previous day has left the train services delayed, which meant later starts for usual routes. This will carry over throughout the week, like it has today as the services have started later than normal at 7.30am and will be closing off earlier at 6.30pm tonight.
The impacts of these strikes have already proven substantial as commuters across the country have struggled to attend work on time and could be missing out financially as a result. The current depleted rail services are going a long way to highlight just how reliant the UK economy is on a healthy and stable rail network. If these strikes were to go on indefinitely, measures must be taken to minimise the potential economic and personal damages that could cripple a nation that is just beginning to find its footing, post pandemic.
Plans to combat this are being considered as the government have announced their plans to change UK law, which would enable them to supply the rail industry with agency workers who could help to maintain some semblance of stability. Current union laws ensure that employment businesses are inhibited from providing agency workers to cover striking staff as it can undermine the impact of the industrial action and render it less effective.
The plans to repeal this law are currently underway and seek to give the affected companies the freedom to explore employment avenues which can stabilise operations. The usage of skilled, temporary agency staff would represent a cultural shift as it would involve the removal of legislation that has been entrenched within our legal system since the 1970’s.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
"Repealing these 1970s-era restrictions will give businesses freedom to access fully-skilled staff at speed, all while allowing people to get on with their lives uninterrupted to help keep the economy ticking."
The ongoing strike action is still yet in its infancy and already having a catastrophic effect on the UK’s economic and social stability. Whilst there is currently no end in sight, all the parties involved must work collaboratively to bring normality back to the weakened industry.
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