FirstFT: UK faces first national train drivers’ strike in 25 years

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The head of the UK train drivers’ union has warned of “massive” disruption this summer as members prepare to vote on their first national strike since 1995.

The ballot at Aslef, which represents drivers, coincides with a similar vote by staff in stations and ticket offices who belong to the TSSA. These follow last month’s strike by the RMT, which brought the country’s rail travel close to a standstill.

With protesters blocking parts of the motorway yesterday over high fuel prices, the prospect of further rail walkouts over pay and rising inflation threatens to compound Britain’s travel chaos.

Aslef is balloting drivers at 10 train companies, with the first results due next week. Mick Whelan, Aslef general secretary, told the Financial Times it was “likely” that walkouts would be co-ordinated, in effect leading to the first national drivers’ strike since 1995.

“It will be far more disruptive than it has been in the past. We do not go on strike very often” — Mick Whelan

Whelan said staff had been offered a pay rise of 2 per cent plus savings from productivity gains, but the union wants an increase close to inflation, which is projected to hit 11 per cent by October.

What do you think about the new rail strikes? Are they an effective bargaining tool? Tell us at [email protected] and we may feature your response in an upcoming edition of the newsletter. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. Germany draws up law to take stakes in gas importers Berlin has drafted legislation allowing it to take stakes in companies crippled by the soaring cost of imported gas as tensions with Russia threaten to plunge the country’s power sector into crisis. The law could be passed as early as this week.

2. KPMG’s business in UAE in turmoil The Big Four accounting group’s business in the United Arab Emirates has been split by infighting, with the chief executive surviving an attempted coup after two senior partners raised governance concerns and were subsequently fired.

If you have an insight into issues in the accounting sector, please contact [email protected] and [email protected]. If your information is sensitive, consider contacting us using one of these secure methods.

3. Vladimir Putin urges push into Donetsk Russia’s president has ordered his top generals to advance towards western parts of Donetsk after his army captured the far eastern Luhansk region at the weekend, which marked Moscow’s first seizure of an entire Ukrainian province since the beginning of the invasion in February.

Moscow, along with its proxy separatist forces, has controlled large parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that form Donbas since it fomented a breakaway conflict in 2014 © AP

4. Boris Johnson knew about misconduct allegations against MP Downing Street has admitted the UK prime minister was aware of some of the sexual misconduct allegations against Chris Pincher before he gave the now-disgraced Tory MP a job overseeing party discipline and welfare, undercutting a denial last week that Johnson knew of “specific allegations”.

5. TikTok scraps ecommerce expansion in Europe and US The Chinese-owned social media platform has abandoned plans to expand its live ecommerce initiative, after its foray into QVC-style shopping in the UK was hit by internal problems and struggled to gain consumer traction.

The day ahead

UK imposes sanctions on Belarus Downing Street will extend punitive measures targeting imports and exports and the ability of Belarusian companies to use London’s financial markets over the government’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

ECB crypto warning The European Central Bank’s supervisory board gathers to discuss the urgent need for “harmonisation” of regulation among eurozone countries ahead of pending EU cryptocurrency rules.

Economic data France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the US markets have purchasing managers’ index data from the services sector. The eurozone’s S&P Global Composite index for manufacturing and services is also out. In the US, economists expect manufacturing orders to have risen in May on strong demand for goods despite supply chain disruptions. (FT, WSJ)

Whirlpool strike Workers at the US washing machine maker will ballot for industrial action over what union bosses have called an “insulting” pay offer. In other corporate news, a first-quarter trading update from J Sainsbury will echo Tesco’s decision to strategically accept lower prices.

What else we’re reading

Who pays for climate change? A Peruvian farmer is suing German utility RWE for the emissions it produced over 124 years, which he argues contributed to warming that threatens his hometown Huaraz. The case is just one of a ballooning number of climate-related lawsuits that have been filed since the Paris Agreement was signed six years ago.

Saúl Luciano Lliuya
Peruvian farmer Saúl Luciano Lliuya is suing RWE over the emissions it produced globally © Luka Gonzales/AFP/Getty Images

The man behind the App Store who presided over a Spac catastrophe Plucked in 2000 by Steve Jobs after a successful run at Target, Ron Johnson is credited with developing the Apple Store, the iPhone maker’s hyper-successful retail gambit. But his latest attempt to capture retailing magic has descended into a debacle emblematic of the boom and bust in blank-cheque companies.

Why groupthink might be a good thing after all If you have ever closely observed collective decision-making, you may have seen something which looks an awful lot like groupthink. Although its impact is difficult to quantify, an organisation that acts with unity of purpose is a better bet than one paralysed by indecision or internal division, writes Stephen Bush.

In gambling regulation, the house shouldn’t win Are deregulatory urges in Downing Street about to hand the gambling industry a victory? Helen Thomas argues that adding gambling addiction to corporate malfeasance and tech monopoly power in the list of problems neglected by reform efforts would be a tragic mistake.

Time to change my subscription model As we slog through subscription fatigue in a market saturated with monthly membership fees, Robert Shrimsley investigates his own ecosystem of deliveries, streaming services, newsletters and other payments. No longer, he vows, will he fall into the demographic that is interested enough to sign up but too stupid to cancel.

Books

Rare books command huge prices. It’s not easy to profit from “priceless” books on the black market — but it doesn’t stop thieves from trying. From high-tech heists to antiquarian crime rings, the literary underworld would make a gripping novel of its own.

a cartoon library scene with a number of masked burglars
There is a joke within the world of rare books, manuscripts and maps that ‘every rare book has been stolen at least once’ © Uijung Kim

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