40,000 of RMT staff at Network Rail and 13 rail operators walked out from midnight. The RMT union is asking for a pay rise of at least 7% to offset the rising cost of living, but it says employers have offered a maximum of 3% - on condition they also accept job cuts and changes to working practices.
RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said staff were being asked to accept thousands of job cuts, reduced pensions, worse terms and conditions and a cut in real-terms pay as living costs soar. Mr Lynch said industrial action would run "as long as it needs to", saying the strikes could last months if a deal was not reached. Mick Lynch, the RMT’s general secretary, raised the prospect of further strikes throughout the summer, as the two sides remained far apart. Lynch said Network Rail had “escalated” the dispute at the talks that day by telling him there would be redundancies from 1 July.
Johnson has responded to the biggest rail strikes in a generation with plans to break the industrial action by allowing firms to bring in agency staff, a move unions have decried as unworkable, unsafe and potentially breaking international law. It would make disputes long and bitter, unions warned on Monday, with the Trades Union Congress (TUC) accusing Johnson of taking a step that “even Margaret Thatcher did not go near”. It would inflame divisions between employers and trade unions when the government should be trying to bring about a deal, they said.