Britain to suffer strike chaos every day until Christmas

Britain is to be disrupted by strikes every day until Christmas as trade unions seek to bring the country to a halt in a new winter of discontent.

Rail workers, including staff at Eurostar, nurses, teachers, security guards handling cash, driving examiners and rural payments officers are planning industrial action that will affect every day over advent.

The true scale of the disruption is set to be significantly worse, as the union representing civil servants, including Border Force officers, Passport Office staff and National Highways employees, has backed strike action but is yet to confirm dates.

It has indicated that it could time industrial action to hit before Christmas, but has to give two weeks’ notice.

The Unite and GMB unions on Wednesday announced that ambulance service workers had voted for industrial action and possible strikes before Christmas.

It follows Unison, which represents hundreds of thousands of health workers, including ambulance staff as well as porters and cleaners, announcing on Tuesday that 80,000 of its members had backed taking industrial action.

Ministers said that trade unions’ decision to take pre-emptive action instead of entering talks would “cause disruption for millions of people”.

Rishi Sunak on Wednesday attacked Sir Keir Starmer’s support for trade unions during Prime Minister’s questions in the House of Commons.

Accusing the Labour leader of “listening to his union paymasters”, he said: “If he really wants to support working people, maybe he should get off the picket line and end the strikes.”

Reacting to the 24 days of disruption, Simon Clarke, Tory MP and former chief secretary to the Treasury, said: “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.”

With soaring inflation fuelling a cost of living crisis, unions are demanding bumper pay increases for their members. Inflation is at 11.1pc, a 41-year high.

Government departments have been told that they are allowed to increase pay in 2022-23 by up to 3pc.

The Government has pledged to introduce new laws guaranteeing minimum service levels to prevent transport networks from grinding to a halt.

          Rishi Sunak – UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor© Provided by The Telegraph

Andrea Leadsom, Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire and former business secretary, called on ministers and union chiefs to get round negotiating tables and avert the strikes before they caused chaos for millions of households.

She said: “The burden on working people from the rising cost of living is incredibly tough, but strike action that will cause misery to millions and put even more pressure on services is not the way out of this.

“The Government and unions need to work together to find a compromise that keeps services running.”

On Thursday, bus workers will walk out in London. It is also the second day of a 48-hour strike by 115,000 Royal Mail staff.

Dave Ward, the general secretary of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), which is responsible for 115,000 postal workers, said on the picket line that strikes would continue until Christmas 2023 unless the privatised company’s board backed down.

The CWU is planning more industrial action on Dec 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24, leading to Royal Mail bosses warning that presents may not be delivered on time for Christmas Day and urging customers to put them in the post early.

Among the other strikes across the rest of the month, G4S cash handlers are set to walk out, raising the prospect of currency shortages at banks and supermarkets, Scottish teachers will take industrial action and there will be further bus strikes in London.

On the railways, 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport workers union (RMT) will strike, prompting national shutdowns on Dec 13, 14, 16 and 17, and Jan 3, 4, 6 and 7.

Separately, RMT Eurostar will walk out for four days of strike action disrupting Christmas holidays. Nurses are to strike on Dec 15 and 20.

On Wednesday Mr Sunak said demands for a 19pc pay rise were “simply unreasonable and unaffordable”. NHS Providers warned that Trusts were “rightly worried about the potential for coordinated and prolonged industrial action in the coming months”.

Government sources insisted that officials were engaging with public sector union leaders to avoid planned strikes going ahead.

Meanwhile, mandarins are “closely monitoring” private sector disputes such as that at Royal Mail.

Small businesses, which Mr Sunak referred to as the “backbone of our economy” during his time as chancellor, are likely to be hit hardest by strikes.

Tina McKenzie, policy and advocacy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “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.

“Disruptions 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: “[We] have 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.”


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