New winter of discontent: Waves of strikes to wreak havoc across UK as teachers and doctors among 2m walking out

18 October 2022, 15:47

The TUC conference is taking place in Brighton.
The TUC conference is taking place in Brighton. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Union leaders are threatening to wreak havoc throughout winter with another wave of mass strike action involving two million workers.

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The stark warning of mass walkouts came as the Trades Union Congress (TUC) opened its annual conference in Brighton on Tuesday.

The new "winter of discontent" comes amid worsening industrial relations and accusations by union officials that the Government is doing little or nothing to help workers struggling with mounting bills.

A crunch ballot on industrial action between unions is set to be held on Wednesday, which could result in essential public sector workers such as teachers, nurses and junior doctors participating in a mass strike.

Some sectors have already decided to go forward with walkouts, with the union representing teachers revealing more than half of headteachers were in favour of striking.

Speaking at the TUC conference, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) said he had "never heard more anger and despair" from school leaders.

He added that insufficient pay has sent schools into "a vicious spiral" of staff resignations, and warned that "heartbreaking cuts to services" will have to be made.

Read more: Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC face food shortages as suppliers threaten strikes

Read more: Up to 6,000 Royal Mail workers to be made redundant with company blaming strikes for financial losses

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch address the TUC congress in Brighton

Meanwhile, coffinmakers have also vowed to take action, bringing production to a "complete stop".

About 50 workers at the Co-op factory based at Bogmoor Place, Glasgow, have rejected a pay offer which their union, Unite, said is a "real-terms" pay cut.

It comes as TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady launched a scathing attack on the government at the union's conference, pledging to fight plans to introduce further legislation on taking industrial action.

Addressing her final TUC Congress before stepping down, she said: "Some say Liz Truss must go. I think they're wrong.

"This whole rotten Tory Government must go. The Tories are toxic. It's time for change.

"We need a general election now."

She later added that the TUC was already co-ordinating industrial action, adding: "When workers are left with no choice but to vote for strike action for decent pay, I say: bring it on."

RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said: "We demand our freedom. We demand it of every politician. Whether it's in the nations, whether it's in the regional governments, we demand it from everyone that workers are free in this country to bargain collectively on their own rules and own constitution - not laws laid down by the Tories or anyone else.

"We demand our right to campaign and we demand our right to strike.

TUC leader calls for general election to end turmoil

Upcoming strikes and potential disputes:

  • October 24: Workers on the Woolwich Ferry in London will stage a five-day strike in a row over pay, after the Unite union accused Transport for London of refusing to discuss a pay deal for this year.
  • October 27: More than 400,000 health workers - including nursing staff, ambulance crews, hospital porters and cleaners - will begin being balloted for strikes over pay.
  • October 31: Coffinmakers at a factory in Bogmoor Place, Glasgow - the Co-op's only manufacturing facility in the UK - are set to strike over pay every day until November 7.
  • November 2: A strike ballot of Royal College of Nursing members closes.
  • November 11: A strike ballot of Royal College of Midwives members opens.
  • Date TBC: A strike ballot over a pay dispute will be held among GMB union members at East Midlands Ambulance Service and West Midlands Ambulance Service.
  • Date TBC: Environment Agency workers and members of the National Association of Headteachers will vote on whether to pursue industrial action.