Unions plan co-ordinated strikes in the run up to Christmas to inflict maximum chaos

11 November 2022, 00:29

A further train driver strike has been announced, and civil servants and nurses are planning action this winter
A further train driver strike has been announced, and civil servants and nurses are planning action this winter. Picture: Alamy
Fran Way

By Fran Way

Unions are planning a co-ordinated strike action in the days leading up to Christmas warning Brits that the country will grind to a halt.

It comes as nurses and civil servants plan strikes and train drivers confirm another walkout in disputes over pay.

Meanwhile the government is preparing to turn down demands over more pay as it tries to balance the £35million 'fiscal black hole'.

Yesterday, 100,000 civil servants running public services from passports to pensions voted to strike over pay.

Separately, train drivers at 12 operators are to strike on November 26 in their long running dispute over pay, Aslef announced.

It comes after nurses across the UK voted to strike over pay - with action expected to start by the end of the year, which could last as long as six months.

Nursing strikes will start before Christmas and action could carry on until May next year.

Former NHS Trust chairman speaks about nursing pay

The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) representing civil servants announced today that the threshold for strike action had been hit in 126 public sector workplaces, covering 100,000 workers.

They want a 10% pay rise, better pensions, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms.

They said details of further action will be announced on November 18 if no progress is made in talks with government.

Read more: NHS faces six months of nurses' strikes as hospitals set to scrap appointments and impose Xmas staffing levels

Read more: Police boss says sorry for arresting LBC reporter but tries to blame media for covering M25 protests

In a statement, PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Our members have spoken and if the government fails to listen to them, we'll have no option than to launch a prolonged programme of industrial action reaching into every corner of public life."

Train drivers at 12 operators also announced a fresh strike in the long-running dispute over pay, threatening more travel chaos across the country.

Members of Aslef will walk out on November 26 after the union said it was still waiting for a pay offer from the employers, despite a series of talks.

General secretary Mick Whelan said: "We regret that passengers will be inconvenienced for another day. We don't want to be taking this action. Withdrawing our labour is always a last resort for a trade union.

"We have come to the table, as we always will, in good faith but while the industry continues to make no offer - due to the dodgy deal they signed with the Department for Transport - we have no choice but to take strike action again.

"They want drivers to take a real terms pay cut. With inflation now well into double figures, train drivers who kept Britain moving through the pandemic are now being expected to work just as hard this year as last year but for less. Most of these drivers have not had an increase in salary since 2019.

Union chief urges rail bosses to 'stand by' their staff

"We want the companies - which are making huge profits - to make a proper pay offer so that our members can keep up with the cost of living."

The 12 companies facing the fresh strike are Avanti West Coast; Chiltern Railways; CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway; Great Western Railway; Greater Anglia; London North Eastern Railway; London Overground; Northern Trains; Southeastern; Transpennine Express, and West Midlands Trains.

Aslef members have taken a series of strikes in recent months, while the RMT and TSSA unions are also still embroiled in industrial disputes.

Yesterday, nurses across the UK backed strike action. It will involve Royal College of Nursing members in more than half of hospitals and community teams, but emergency care staffing will remain.

More than 300,000 members were balloted on whether they backed the unprecedented strike action, the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) first UK-wide vote in its 106 year existence.

The union warned strikes will start before Christmas and action could carry on until May next year.

The NHS will focus on emergency patients as hospitals are left with staffing levels similar to the Christmas period.

Serious cancer cases could still be treated and urgent procedures will go ahead if data is needed on life-threatening or potentially disabling conditions.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said politicians should "get round the table".

A senior NHS official has said operations and appointments will need to be called off or delayed.

NHS Confederation head Matthew Taylor said: "Clearly industrial action is a challenge for the health service and NHS leaders.

"We're already coping with the gap that exists between the demand that is currently on the health service from the public. We've got to meet that demand, and we all know that we are heading into what already is a very difficult winter.

"Then we add industrial action into that and it's going to be an extremely difficult job.

"The priority will be to try to minimise patient harm."

Nurses across 100 trusts voted for the action, including at specialist cancer hospitals like Royal Marsden in London, or major facilities like Guy's Hospital in South London.

They are angry that the Government will not match its pay rise demands. Ministers characterise the request as the equivalent of 17% per nurse to the tune of £9bn overall, while the RCN says it wants 5% rises due to inflation.

Physiotherapists and midwives will also vote over strike action in the coming days, while ambulance drivers, paramedics and hospital support staff are also being consulted by Unison and GMB.