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Why everyone’s on strike (but why it’s not the 1970s either)

West End Final

did something dumb yesterday – I forgot to check Citymapper. So I walked to my local tube station for 7:05am, only to find it was still shut following Monday’s strike. I returned home and in a dangerously decaffeinated haze put my pyjamas back on.

Now, I don’t want to overdo the comparisons to the 1970s, first because I wasn’t there and second it’s a bit passé by this point. But last week’s three-day week, rampant inflation and even bin strikes aren’t doing much to dispel the idea we shouldn’t all be dressing up in tie-dye and bell bottom trousers and going out for fondue. (I told you I wasn’t there).

The RMT union has announced a fresh Tube strike for June 21 that is expected to bring the entire underground to a halt, similar to the one in March. The ongoing industrial action centres on the decision by Transport for London to cut 500 to 600 station posts and review its pension scheme.

The walkout is set to coincide with the first day of a national rail strike involving 50,000 workers across three days, but will effectively grind the network to a halt for the entire working week. Of course, maximum disruption is the point.

The union said it was taking action after negotiations on pay and a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies broke down, and should make for the biggest such walkout since 1989.

Money is, as ever, the key driver. Despite the pleas of the Governor of the Bank of England, workers are looking for pay deals that mean they are not getting poorer each month. Were inflation at its intended 2 per cent, this would be less of a problem. At 9 per cent and rising, it is a big one.

Not least because the Chancellor wants to cap public sector pay increases at 2 per cent this year. And specifically for the railways, ministers want to drive through efficiency measures. With passenger numbers still below pre-pandemic levels, the alternative is higher ticket prices or more taxpayer money.

If you’re wondering whether we might grow our way out of trouble, we now turn to today’s major report from the OECD. It forecasts that Britain will enjoy ‘growth’ of 0 per cent next year. That makes us the worst-performing country in the G20 behind only Russia. The OECD blames the UK’s high inflation, monetary tightening and ever-increasing tax burden.

Back in March – albeit prior to the mini-budget last month – the Office for Budget Responsibility noted that Britons were set to experience the biggest fall in living standards in any single financial year since ONS records began in 1956-7, worse than anything seen in the 1970s. Perhaps it’s the wrong decade for comparison after all.

Elsewhere in the paper, Keir Starmer has been mocked for missing the proverbial open goal at PMQs today.

In the comment pages, Defence Editor Robert Fox warns that from food prices to energy security, the war in Ukraine has become our war too, whether we like it or not.

Meanwhile, Melanie McDonagh says that Cineworld’s decision to pull out of screening The Lady of Heaven due to concerns for staff safety is censorship, when the (by all accounts dreadful) film should have been let to tank.

And finally, this is rather lovely. Katie Strick is swiping the apps not looking for love but new friendships. But (Katie aside), do cool, normal people actually sign up to get matched online... and what if you get ghosted?

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