Britain to suffer strikes every day until Christmas

Rail workers, teachers, nurses and driving instructors are among those staging protest action over festive period

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Britain will suffer strikes every day in the lead up to Christmas as discontent spreads about pay, which many workers claim is failing to keep pace with soaring inflation.

Rail workers, teachers, nurses and driving instructors are among those staging industrial action over the festive period.

Civil servants, including Border Force officers, Passport Office staff and National Highways employees, have also voted to strike but have yet to announce dates. The action is expected to take place before Christmas.

On Wednesday, Unite and GMB unions announced ambulance service workers had also backed action, which could take place in December.

The announcement came a day after Unison said thousands of health workers, including ambulance staff, had also voted to strike.

Steve Barclay, Britain's Health and Social Care Minister, said he regretted that some National Health Service staff would be walking out as the country approached "a challenging winter".

He said: "Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes and the NHS has tried-and-tested plans to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said public sector pay rises in line with soaring inflation were "unaffordable".

Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme, he said there "simply isn't the money" to meet the demands of workers planning industrial action.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak attacked Keir Starmer’s support for trade unions during Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday, saying of the opposition Labour leader: "If he really wants to support working people, maybe he should get off the picket line and end the strikes.”

London tube strikes - in pictures

Mr Sunak said demands for a 19 per cent pay rise were “simply unreasonable and unaffordable”.

Simon Clarke, Tory MP and former chief secretary to the Treasury, told The Daily Telegraph: “These are very difficult times for the economy because of Putin’s war, but the public sector needs to recognise the private sector isn’t getting anywhere near the [pay] increases they are demanding, which, if pursued, would lead to a self-defeating inflationary spiral.

“If the unions refuse to come to their senses, the government should absolutely push ahead with minimum service legislation.”

Bus workers will strike in London on Thursday, which is also the second day of a 48-hour period of action by 115,000 Royal Mail staff.

Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union, of which the striking postal workers are members, has pledged to continue action until Christmas 2023 unless the board relents.

More action is planned for December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24.

About 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers' union will strike on December 13, 14, 16 and 17, and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

Groups representing small businesses have warned they will be hit hard by the strikes.

Tina McKenzie, policy and advocacy chairwoman of the Federation of Small Businesses, told The Daily Telegraph: “Small businesses are already in the middle of a cost-of-doing-business crisis, coming up against surging energy costs, rampant inflation, high taxes and consumers cutting back.

“Disruption to transport networks and delivery and retail services add to the burden of small firms.

“These strikes, now impacting the festive season, undermine the recovery of our tourism and hospitality sectors, which are dominated by small firms and were hit hardest by Covid."

A spokesman for the government said it had “repeatedly called for unions and employers to keep talking and come to an agreement, rather than take pre-emptive industrial action”.

“We recognise that these are challenging economic times but pay settlements must be affordable and fair for both workers and taxpayers.”

Updated: December 01, 2022, 10:43 AM
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