UK strike action spreads after walkouts by barristers, port workers and rubbish collectors

Unions threaten more stoppages as cost-of-living crisis hits Britain's workforce

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Britain has been plagued by a summer of strikes, with the unrest spreading after walkouts by port workers, rubbish collectors and public servants.

The strikes have been prompted by below-inflation pay offers, despite the cost of living increasing by 10 per cent year-on-year and forecast to rise even higher.

Walkouts by rail workers and bus drivers have already brought London to a standstill on some days, with trains cancelled and the tube network almost entirely shut down.

Workers at Heathrow Airport called off a strike over pay at the 11th hour, while staff at Stansted Airport in Essex are holding a vote on whether to take action.

Members of the Unite union are on strike at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, where about 2,000 dock workers have walked out in a dispute over pay.

The union is calling for a 10 per cent pay rise to keep wages roughly in line with UK inflation, while the port has proposed a 7 per cent increase plus a £500 ($592) one-off payment.

About 40,000 Communication Workers' Union members who work at BT and Openreach have also called a strike over a below-inflation pay offer. The 24-hour walkout includes engineers and call centre workers.

The stoppage next Wednesday will coincide with a strike by CWU members of the Royal Mail in a separate row over pay and conditions.

The CWU says it is also preparing a ballot for members across Capita O2 and Tesco Mobile partnerships.

Unite said that 1,600 drivers at bus company London United would strike over the bank holiday weekend, adding disruption to services which could affect those attending the Notting Hill Carnival.

The union claims the dispute is a result of workers only being offered a pay increase of 3.6 per cent for 2022 and 4.2 per cent for next year.

General secretary Sharon Graham said French firm RATP, which owns London United, was “an incredibly wealthy” company that could afford to raise wages.

AQA exam board workers have agreed to strike this month, and members of the National Union of Journalists at Reach plc — which includes the Express and Mirror newspaper groups — will also walk out after rejecting a 3 per cent pay increase.

Bins overflowing with litter on the Canongate in Edinburgh city centre after a strike by refuse workers. PA

In Scotland, Edinburgh’s streets have been left with overflowing rubbish bins after workers walked out last Thursday in protest against a “derisory” and “pathetic” pay rise offer.

The strike is scheduled to last until August 30, but rubbish is already littering the city streets and black bags are piling up outside homes.

Members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), who have been stopping work on alternate weeks since June, voted for an all-out, indefinite strike that would start on September 5, coinciding with the announcement of the new Conservative party leader and British prime minister.

Ministry of Justice figures indicate that more than 6,000 court hearings have been disrupted a result of the dispute over conditions and government-set fees for legal aid advocacy work.

More strikes by nurses are also on the cards after unions reacted angrily to a proposed pay deal for healthcare workers.

Updated: August 26, 2022, 4:37 PM
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