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Employment

All the major strike action that could take place this summer – and why

Industrial action is escalating across the UK as inflation soars and the cost of living bites. Here are some of the major strikes taking place or being threatened.

Industrial action is escalating across the UK as inflation soars and the cost of living bites. Here are some of the major strikes taking place or being threatened.

You may have noticed that the biggest rail strike in 30 years just took place with tens of thousands of staff members walking out over pay and job disputes.

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Unions say the strikes could mark the start of a 1970s-style “summer of discontent” with teachers, NHS staff and bin workers all threatening walkouts as inflation soars towards 10 per cent. 

Criminal barristers have started their first week of action, striking for two days this week, three next, continuing until they walkout for an entire week unless the Ministry of Justice agrees to up the legal aid budget to pay them 25 per cent more . 

“I think there are many unions that are balloting across the country because people can’t take it any more. We’ve got people doing full time jobs who are having to take state benefits and use food banks. That is a national disgrace,” said Mick Lynch, general secretary of union RMT, which is organising the rail strike.

Gary Smith, general secretary of union GMB, has said he would be willing to coordinate strike action with other unions in order to “leverage our power”. Smith has denied that unions are already planning a national strike but warned it could happen unless ministers and employers concede to workers’ demands for pay to match inflation. 

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Public-sector union Unison, which has 1.3 million members working in local authorities including the NHS, education, gas and electricity, and police, has told its branches to get “strike ready”. 

Here are some of the major strikes, and strike ballots that could affect you this summer. 

Rail and Tube workers 

Three days of 24 hour walkouts by members of the RMT union are over, but an agreement between union and rail bosses hasn’t been reached. Only a fifth of train services ran on the third day of action, and half of lines had to close.

Mick Lynch has said that he won’t rule out further strike action, as there seems to eb with little sign of a breakthrough in negotiations. 

“Strike action’s not ruled out and it will have to take place if we do not get a deal, but we’re hoping that we can get a deal and we get some compromise,” Lynch told workers at a picket line outside Euston Station. 

“It’s quite odd. The people who are running this country are brought up on a diet of Latin and Greek and our members are brought up on a diet of getting up at ungodly times to run the transport system. I think there’s a bit of disconnect there.

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“If we had people who were used to doing work we might get a better deal out of them.”

Unions must give a minimum of 14 days notice to employers before industrial action begins.   The dispute is over pay and conditions. RMT, which represents rail workers ranging from catering staff to signallers, is calling for a pay rise of at least 7 per cent, after two to three years of stagnating wages.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has accused unions of trying to “drag the railway back to the 1970s” and urged them to negotiate with employers.

Speaking in the Commons, he said the strike was “orchestrated by some of the best-paid union barons representing some of the better-paid workers in this country”.

Teachers / Education strikes

Up to 450,000 teachers could be walking out of classrooms this summer as the National Education Union (NEU) has said it is preparing to hold a ballot. The action could lead to strikes in schools across the country, some of which may have to temporarily shut. 

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi put forward a pay rise of 3 per cent for teachers earlier this year, but with inflation currently at 9 per cent and expected to continue rising until at least October, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary, has said unless the government offers “significantly” more, the union is prepared to ballot.

NASUWT, another teachers’ union, also warned it would ballot members on industrial action from November in England, Scotland and Wales.

Crown court lawyers

Criminal barristers have gone on strike to protest continued lack of government funding for trials.

The Criminal Bar Association announced that the “days of action” would begin with a two day walkout starting the week of June 27, increasing in regularity over the coming weeks. It’s worth mentioning that the last time barristers went on strike, it was called off after just one and a half days.

Lawyers working in criminal justice say they cannot make a living any more, with many moving into other types of law where there is better pay. This further adds to strain existing criminal lawyers are put under, and adds to the huge backlog of cases. They’re asking for an immediate 25 per cent fee increase.

“Members of the criminal Bar have been feeling mistreated, undervalued and overwhelmed for a decade or more. The criminal justice system has been politicised by figures wishing to make political capital but unwilling to match the rhetoric with action and funding,” said Mark Fenhalls QC, Chair of the Bar Council.

NHS and health workers

Unison, the biggest union representing NHS staff, has warned that unless the government offers a pay rise close to inflation there could be a mass exodus of employees and industrial action in already stretched hospitals.

Its general secretary Christina McAnea said: “The government has a simple choice. Either it makes a sensible pay award, investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients.

“Or it risks a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.”

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BT and EE workers

The BT Group could be facing its first national industrial action ballot in 35 years after the Communication Workers Union gave bosses an ultimatum to improve pay. If pay demands are not met, bosses at BT, Openreach and EE could face a company-wide strike. 

Workers have been offered a flat rate pay rise of £1,500, but the CWU highlighted that this amounts to 3.37 per cent to 7.89 per cent salary rise, well below inflation and therefore amounting to a pay cut. 

Deputy general secretary Andy Kerrr said: “This year BT is intending to pay out £761million to shareholders – about 60 per cent of the group’s overall profits – so this is actually about choices and priorities, not affordability.”

“BT needs to wake up and recognise that, in a climate where the cost of everything is skyrocketing, it is simply insulting for a highly successful business to impose real-term pay cuts on the very employees on which its success depends.”

The Big Issue recently revealed that a BT run call centre had set up a food donation point for its own staff to use when their pay won’t stretch to the end of the month, though the comms giant has denied it’s a food bank.

Post Office workers

Also represented by the CWU, about 1,500 Post Office workers are to stage a further one-day strike, having already walked out in May and June. This next 24-hour strike will force Britain’s 114 Crown Post Offices to close on Monday July 11. 

“After the first two actions in May and June, we agreed to talks with Post Office leaders last week and, as a gesture of good faith we decided to pause further strikes in the genuine hope that a resolution could be found through negotiation,” said CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey.

“But, as reported last week their pay position only increased by a half of a per cent and this frankly insulting proposal was clearly not a serious attempt on the part of the management to find an agreed settlement,” he continued. 

British Airways workers at London Heathrow airport

British Airways check-in and ground staff at London’s Heathrow airport have voted to strike this summer. The BA employees are members of two unions: GMB whose members back industrial action by 91 per cent, and Unite, which said that 94 per cent of its members voted to strike. 

The unions say a 10 per cent pay cut was imposed on staff over the pandemic, when runways sat disused and empty. But their full level of pay has not been reinstated, despite airports functioning at high capacity. 

BA offered staff a 10 per cent “payment”, but union bosses say a one-off payment won’t cut it, and are demanding their members’ full salaries be reinstated. 

More than 700 BA staff could take part in the strike, adding to the disruption Heathrow has faced recently. Mountains of baggage started to build up inside the terminal as staff shortages and increased demand from travellers put the airport under pressure. 

Arriva and Stagecoach bus drivers

Arriva bus drivers across West Yorkshire have been on strike for at least 17 days, calling for an inflation-matching pay rise. Two pay offers made by the bus company have been rejected by Unite so far. 

Bus company Stagecoach is facing a strike among its Merseyside bus drivers and engineers. Represented by Unite, the union says the company had “refused to make an offer which meets members’ expectations”.

Stagecoach says it had offered all employees at its Gillmoss depot in Liverpool a 9.5 per cent increase. The strike will take place at the bus depot June 30 and July 4. 

Stagecoach bus drivers in Worthing in the south of England recently won a 15.8 per cent pay rise. Unite sealed the deal after negotiations were reached without the need to progress to industrial action.

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