Doctors and rail staff lead another wave of strikes

Widespread disruption expected for health, travel and media sectors

Strikes sweep across the UK as unrest grows in the rail, healthcare and media sectors. Bloomberg
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Another wave of industrial action has been sweeping across the UK, affecting key sectors and impacting millions of lives.

Major strikes were being staged on Thursday by a number of professions, from rail workers to healthcare consultants, each demanding better pay and working conditions.

NHS consultants' strike affecting patient care

Large-scale disruption to patient care is being reported as thousands of NHS consultants go on strike across England.

Consultant doctors and hospital-based dentists have decided to strike for 48 hours from Thursday until 7am on Saturday.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, warned the impact on patients and services was likely to be the most significant yet.

He said the NHS could not function properly without consultants.

Thousands of operations, procedures and appointments have been cancelled or rescheduled.

It is the first time in a decade consultants have been on strike and comes only two days after junior doctors staged a five-day walkout, the longest in NHS history.

The British Medical Association (BMA) held a ballot for protest action last month in which a vast majority (86 per cent) of more than 24,000 consultants voted in favour.

The government has offered a 6 per cent pay rise but the BMA described this as “derisory”, claiming doctors have witnessed their real-term pay decrease by more than a third in the past 14 years.

NHS trusts are now planning to manage without their most senior doctors, with many consultants expected to provide only emergency “on-call” cover on Thursday and Friday.

The government and the BMA are being urged to reach an agreement to prevent further strikes. Sir Julian urged them to find a way to agree on a pay rise that was fully funded by the government.

Rail workers' strike disrupts travel

Thousands of rail workers were on strike on Thursday, causing extensive travel disruption amid a protracted dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, which includes station staff and train managers, is planning further walkouts on Saturday and July 29.

Simultaneously, Aslef drivers are enforcing an overtime ban this week.

Passengers across the country are dealing with varying service levels due to the strike action affecting 14 train companies, leading to later start times and earlier end times on many routes. In some regions only about half of the usual trains are running, while some companies have cancelled services altogether.

In a statement, a representative for the Rail Delivery Group warned that strikes and the overtime ban would cause “significant disruption for passengers”, potentially affecting their daily commute and plans for summer holidays.

Rail workers formed picket lines outside numerous railway stations across England.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said rail workers, who have been on strike for more than a year, are awaiting an invitation to return to the negotiating table.

“There is not an agreement in sight at the moment but we remain available for negotiation with the companies and with the government," he said.

The Department for Transport called on union leaders to present their members with “fair and reasonable” offers so the dispute can be resolved.

Meanwhile, another wave of strikes is expected to hit London Underground services next week due to a separate dispute over jobs, pensions and conditions.

BBC journalists walk out in dispute over local radio cuts

In a dispute over cuts to local radio, BBC journalists are taking protest action that the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) says will affect coverage of Thursday's three parliamentary by-elections.

The NUJ reported receiving extensive public support for its campaign to protect local radio stations across England from job cuts and changes to working practices.

Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said the BBC's plans for job cuts and changes to local radio were unpopular.

He said: “We believe there are ways to protect and promote digital investment without cutting much-loved and valued local radio content.”

Those involved in the strike include journalists working in local radio, regional TV and online in England.

The strike is combined with a work-to-rule action as part of the continuing dispute.

A BBC representative said the corporation was continuing to support all those affected by the changes to their local online services and remains committed to delivering a local service across TV, radio and online that offers more value to more people in more local communities.

Updated: July 20, 2023, 11:24 AM