The UK’s rail network is once again in complete chaos due to fresh strikes that began Thursday, with union bosses warning the dispute could continue “indefinitely” unless their demands are met.
Thousands of workers across the UK kicked off a four-day strike due to long-running disputes over working conditions and unfair pay.
Commuters across the country, including the capital London, have been advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
Workers taking part in the industrial action are largely from Network Rail, Transport for London, London Buses and other transport services and are members of a number of unions.
Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, accused the government of pursuing a “deliberate policy of prolonging rail disputes for political reasons.”
In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, he said the government was using “taxpayers’ money to bail out private train companies,” having doled out over £120 million ($143 million) so far, according to the union’s calculation.
“Using taxpayers’ money to satisfy the anti-union agenda of the Tory party and seek to break the trade unions is shameful and means the dispute will be prolonged indefinitely as the train companies don’t lose a penny as a result of the industrial action and therefore have no incentive to settle the disputes,” said Lynch.
“At the moment, the only way we’ve ever achieved anything as a union is by the withdrawal of our labor. That’s the only way that a working person has any strength is by collective bargaining and collective use of our ability to withdraw our labor,” said Chris Mortimer, the RMT union representative for Kings Cross.
“We don’t have the big money that comes due. And the only thing we have as individuals is the right to say we will not work under these conditions. The right to withdraw labor is from fundamental parts of being a member of the union,” he added.
NORTH LONDON: Tube trains stand at Northfields Train Depot as train strikes hit services again
Earlier, the RMT head said Network Rail had “not made any improvement on their previous pay offer and the train operating companies have not offered us anything new.”
He said officials were holding “secret negotiations with the government about cutting costs by slashing jobs and undermining working conditions and pensions.”
“Network Rail is also threatening to impose compulsory redundancies and unsafe 50% cuts to maintenance work if we did not withdraw strike action. The train operating companies have put driver-only operations on the table along with ransacking our members’ terms and conditions,” he added.
In addition to Thursday’s industrial action, members of the RMT and Unite unions will walk out of London Underground tube stations and bus depots Friday in a separate dispute over pay.
On Saturday, railway workers including train drivers, conductors and platform staff, alongside members from the London United bus routes, will stage a walkout that will further disrupt travel plans for many on the weekend.
Shapps has condemned the mass industrial action and blamed its participants for causing unnecessary disruptions to millions of commuters who rely on transport services to go to work and visit family and friends.
“It’s clear, from their coordinated approach that the unions are hell-bent on causing as much misery as possible to the very same taxpayers who stumped up £600 ($716) per household to ensure not a single rail worker lost their job during the (coronavirus) pandemic,” he said.
“Sadly, union chiefs have short memories and will be repaying this act of good faith by ruining millions of hard-working people’s summer plans. Businesses too will suffer, with the capital’s leisure and tourism sectors, which have been banking on that summer trade, set to lose millions – a particularly cruel blow, given how hard many worked to stay afloat during successive summers of lockdown,” he added.
Unions leading the mass strike, however, argue that their workers are being severely affected by the cost-of-living crisis, with inflation reaching a 40-year high of 10% and real wages seeing a sharp drop.
In June, a mass walkout by members of the RMT union caused one of the UK’s largest rail strikes in 30 years. (Anadolu Agency)
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is offering soldiers to support armed police in London after dozens of police officers stood down from firearms duties, BBC reports.
More than 100 officers have turned in permits allowing them to carry weapons, a source told the BBC, in support of a fellow officer who has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Chris Kaba.
The officer, named only as NX121, who appeared in court last week, has been charged over the death of Chris Kaba in September 2022.
Kaba died hours after he was struck by a single gunshot fired into the vehicle he was driving in the Streatham area of South London.
It later emerged that the Audi Mr Kaba was driving, which did not belong to him, had been linked by police to a gun incident the day before.
His death prompted a number of protests and renewed allegations of racism within the force.
The Ministry of Defence said it received a request, known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities, from the Home Office to “provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed”.
A MACA is offered to the police or the NHS in emergency situations. The military helped medical staff in the Covid pandemic and covered for striking border staff and paramedics last year.
The Met said it was a “contingency option” that would only be used “in specific circumstances and where an appropriate policing response was not available”.
Military staff would not be used “in a routine policing capacity”, it added.
On Saturday, the Met said its own officers still make up the vast majority of armed police in the capital but they were being supported by a limited number of firearms officers from neighbouring forces.
Announcing the review, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the public “depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us”.
“In the interest of public safety they have to make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures.”
She said that officers have her “full backing”.
“I will do everything in my power to support them,” she added.
In his letter to the home secretary, the Met Police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said that a system where officers are investigated for “safely pursuing suspects” should not have been allowed to develop.
Sir Mark said he would “make no comment” on any ongoing legal matters, but “the issues raised in this letter go back further”.
He said firearms officers are concerned that they will face years of legal proceedings, “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”.
“Officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, and the confidence that it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour,” he wrote.
But in instances where officers act improperly, Sir Mark said the system “needs to move swiftly” rather than “tying itself in knots pursuing good officers through multiple legal processes”.
This handout picture provided by the office of Libya’s Benghazi-based interim prime minister on September 11, 2023 shows a view of destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in the eastern city of Derna, about 290 kilometres east of Benghazi, in the wake of the Mediterranean storm “Daniel”. (Photo by The Press Office of Libyan Prime Minister / AFP)
At least 2,300 people were killed in Libya and thousands more were reported missing after catastrophic flash floods broke river dams and tore through an eastern coastal city, devastating entire neighbourhoods.
As global concern spread, multiple nations offered to urgently send aid and rescue teams to help the war-scarred country that has been overwhelmed by what one UN official labelled “a calamity of epic proportions”.
Massive destruction shattered the Mediterranean coastal city of Derna, home to about 100,000 people, where multi-storey buildings on the river banks collapsed and houses and cars vanished in the raging waters.
Emergency services reported an initial death toll of more than 2,300 in Derna alone and said over 5,000 people remained missing while about 7,000 were injured.
“The situation in Derna is shocking and very dramatic,” said Osama Ali of the Tripoli-based Rescue and Emergency Service. “We need more support to save lives because there are people still under the rubble and every minute counts.”
The floods were caused by torrential rains from Storm Daniel, which made landfall in Libya on Sunday after earlier lashing Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Derna, 250 kilometres (150 miles) east of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by what is normally a dry riverbed in summer, but which has turned into a raging torrent of mud-brown water that also swept away several major bridges.
The number of dead given by the Libyan emergency service roughly matched the grim estimates provided by the Red Cross and by authorities in the east, who have warned the death toll may yet rise further.
“The death toll is huge and might reach thousands,” said Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, three of whose volunteers were also reported dead.
“We confirm from our independent sources of information that the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far,” Ramadan added.
Elsewhere in Libya’s east, aid group the Norwegian Refugee Council said “entire villages have been overwhelmed by the floods and the death toll continues to rise”.
“Communities across Libya have endured years of conflict, poverty and displacement. The latest disaster will exacerbate the situation for these people. Hospitals and shelters will be overstretched.”
People look at the damage caused by freak floods in Derna, eastern Libya, on September 11, 2023. (Photo by AFP)
The storm also hit Benghazi and the hill district of Jabal al-Akhdar. Flooding, mudslides and other major damage were reported from the wider region, with images showing overturned cars and trucks.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation, which has its main fields and terminals in eastern Libya, declared “a state of maximum alert” and suspended flights between production sites where it said activity was drastically reduced.
Oil-rich Libya is still recovering from the years of war and chaos that followed the 2011 NATO-backed popular uprising which toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The country is divided between two rival governments — the UN-brokered, internationally recognised administration based in Tripoli, and a separate administration in the disaster-hit east.
Access to the east is limited. Phone and online links have been largely severed, but the administration’s prime minister Oussama Hamad has reported “more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing” in Derna alone.
A Derna city council official described the situation as “catastrophic” and asked for a “national and international intervention”.
Libya’s UN-backed government under Abdelhamid Dbeibah announced three days of national mourning on Monday and emphasised “the unity of all Libyans”.
Aid convoys from Tripoli were heading east and Dbeibah’s government announced the dispatch of two ambulance planes and a helicopter, as well as rescue teams, canine search squads and 87 doctors, and technicians to restore power.
Rescue teams from Turkey have arrived in eastern Libya, according to authorities, and the United Nations and several countries offered to send aid.
Egypt announced three days of mourning “in solidarity” with Libya and earthquake-hit Morocco and offered to send aid to both countries.
Algeria said it was sending aid aboard eight military planes and Italy said it was “responding immediately to requests for support” with an assessment team on the way.
The United States embassy said it had “issued an official declaration of humanitarian need in response to the devastating floods in Libya”.