RAIL union boss “Mad” Mick Lynch and his militant mates gloated as they caused chaos for millions of commuters yesterday.
In a throwback to lockdown, stations were deserted as millions worked from home to beat the transport carnage.
Thousands of signal workers, cleaners and maintenance staff from the RMT union walked out in an increasingly bitter dispute over pay and modernisation.
They will do the same tomorrow — with the strike certain to go ahead, regardless of the outcome of fresh talks between rail bosses and union barons today.
The RMT is refusing to abandon outdated working habits and automation even though its members are on course for a pay rise double that of nurses.
Yesterday’s action — the largest in a generation — hit Network Rail and 13 train operators.
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There were almost no passenger trains for the entire day, cutting off most of Scotland and Wales, all of Cornwall and Dorset, Chester, Hull, Lincoln and Worcester.
Just a fifth of trains ran, with half of lines and the Tube closed. Less than two-thirds will run today due to the delay in starting services, plus control room staff refusing to work overnight.
‘Time to stand up’
The hospitality sector fears total losses of £1billion over the week — while the railways will suffer £150million losses too.
Smirking Lynch looked pleased with himself as he was pictured in London yesterday.
He claimed his members are “leading the way for all workers in this country who are sick and tired of having their pay and conditions slashed by big business profits and Government policy”.
He added: “Now is the time to stand up and fight for every single railway worker in this dispute that we will win.”
Even 1980s miners’ union leader Arthur Scargill, 84, joined a picket in Wakefield, West Yorks.
But a YouGov poll found just 14 per cent of Brits “strongly supported” the strike action, with 45 per cent opposed.
And as teaching unions said they could be next to walk out, PM Boris Johnson steeled the country for weeks of “so wrong and so unnecessary” industrial strife.
He told a Cabinet meeting that rail reforms are vital for the industry and passengers — especially after the billions of bailout cash funnelled to train firms during the pandemic.
The PM added: “I say this to the country as a whole, we need to get ready to stay the course. These improvements in the way we run our railways are in the interests of the travelling public, they will help to cut costs for farepayers up and down the country.
“We need the union barons to sit down with Network Rail and the train companies and get on with it.”
But the Sun can reveal striking train workers will get double the pay rise this year than that offered to nurses if they accept reforms.
Government sources admit the pay offer for the RMT could hit six per cent — paid for in billions of pounds of efficiency savings.
That is twice the three per cent offered to nurses — with fears more sectors will walk out if the RMT strike pays off.
The union has been asked by Network Rail to attend formal talks next month on introducing “modern working practices”. Network Rail official Tim Shoveller said the changes would mean “dumping outdated practices and introducing new technology”.
He added: “We expect this will reduce roles by around 1,800, the vast majority of which will be lost through voluntary severance and natural wastage.”
But the RMT is playing hardball over so-called Spanish practices, such as keeping extra pay for going to the toilet, restarting breaks if a manager so much as speaks to them and manual checks by staff of tracks despite automatic sensors doing the job.
‘Responsibility to not take any action’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday warned that planned tax cuts would have to be ditched if public sector workers got an inflation-matching pay rise.
A spokesman said he told the Cabinet they had a “responsibility to not take any action that would feed into inflationary pressures or reduce the Government’s ability to lower taxes in the future.”
But No10 officials came under fresh fire yesterday for confirming they will boost pensions by at least eight per cent while refusing to give workers the same rise.
Ministers confirmed the pension triple lock is returning, meaning retirement pots will be boosted by whatever the rate of inflation stands at in September.
Downing Street defended the move by claiming that handing millions of older people the massive benefits bump would not be inflationary, but pay rises would.
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The PM’s spokesman said: “There’s not the same risk of a spillover effect into the private sector.”
- TORY MP Lee Anderson accused the BBC of siding with the RMT and Labour in its coverage of yesterday’s action. The Beeb insisted it had covered “a range of voices”.