Fury as union barons cancel Christmas: RMT rail strikes clash with World Cup semi-finals and will cripple hospitality and High Street on biggest trading week of the year – cancelling festive parties and shopping trips
- Rail unions called eight days of strikes over the Christmas period – but action will cause weeks of disruption
- RMT announced four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7, hitting Christmas and New Year
- Union boss Mick Lynch denied being ‘Mick Grinch’ when asked about strike chaos – but says he wants a deal
- Government sources insisted there’s a ‘glimmering outline’ of a deal with RMT before chaos begins
Rail union barons face the wrath of millions today after calling eight days of strikes over the festive period – causing two weeks of disruption that will prevent people travelling to see their families over Christmas and the new year.
The RMT yesterday announced four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7, forcing many revellers to cancel parties and shoppers to stay at home instead. Key dates such as Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve will be hit.
The British economy will lose hundreds of millions of pounds when the UK is already in recession, with shopping trips cancelled, parties axed along with festive trips to pantomimes and shows also under threat.
The carefully chosen dates will disrupt people going out to watch the final week of the World Cup, as well as Friday December 16, known as ‘Black Eye Friday’ because it is the busiest night of drinking before Christmas. After Christmas the return to work and school will also be hit by four strike dates in January.
RMT boss Mick Lynch denied he was ‘Mick Grinch’ when confronted about the scale of misery the walkouts would inflict. He said: ‘I’m not the Grinch, I’m a trade union official and I’m determined to get a deal.’ Today he denied that he doesn’t care about the British public or that he is ‘holding the country to ransom’.
But he promised to ‘coordinate’ strike dates with other union chiefs to shut down Britain, with nurses, civil servants and postal workers having also voted in favour of walkouts. Teachers are still being balloted.
Britain is already facing a winter of discontent with civil servants, transport workers and even nurses deciding to take industrial action for the first time in more than a century.
Kate Nicholls of UKHospitality said the strikes announced by the RMT yesterday would ‘deal a hammer blow to hard-pressed hospitality businesses in city centres across the UK’. Ms Nicholls said strikes in June cost £500million-a-week to hospitality – so the figure for the busiest week of the year will likely be higher.
She said yet more strikes are ‘catastrophically bad for hospitality workers, customers and businesses – the biggest trading week of the year and vital to securing viability for many businesses after the years of turmoil. Will cost the sector millions. Vital all sides come to the table to resolve and avert’.
More than 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union across Network Rail and 14 train operating companies will walk out on December 13, 14, 16 and 17 and on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.
RMT boss Mick Lynch (pictured on GMB today) has denied he is ‘Mick Grinch’ when confronted about the scale of misery the walkouts would inflict
The latest RMT action will see more than 40,000 workers at Network Rail and 14 train operators walk out for 48 hours on December 13 and 14. Pictured: Empty platform and stationary trains at Kings Cross station in London during strikes on October 5
Britain is facing a winter of discontent after 100,000 civil servants voted to strike as comrades on the rail network agreed new dates and nurses decided on taking industrial action for the first time in more than a century.
Small businesses say that it’ll be the third year of disruption, after two years of lockdowns and Covid restrictions, and experts say the strikes could make this Christmas their last in business.
Dr Jackie Mulligan, founder of ShopAppy, told MailOnline: ‘These strikes have the potential to be a disaster for the high street. It’s peak time for last minute shopping, Christmas parties, markets and festive treats. It’s a third year of troubles facing retail and hospitality in their “Golden Quarter”. For many businesses, this could really be their last Christmas’.
Who is going on strike and when?
Civil servants: Around 100,000 civil servants have voted for a national strike over pay, pensions and jobs, the PCS union has announced. The dates are TBC.
Nurses: Strikes are expected to begin in early December and could take place over two dates, potentially a Tuesday and a Thursday. They could last until early May 2023.
Bus drivers: The workers will strike on November 22, 25, and 26 and on December 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17.
Rail workers: Drivers working for 12 British train operators will go on strike on November 26 in an ongoing dispute over pay
Postal workers: Take national strike action on Thursday 24 and Friday 25 November and for Wednesday 30 November and Thursday 1 December 2022.
Dominic Bowers, owner of Stoke-On-Trent-based food retailer, Totally Delicious added: “A volcano is about to erupt in the world of retail and hospitality and that was before these strikes were announced. A sector that literally serves the nation is facing unprecedented challenges and strikes won’t help’.
Ministers have been urged to ‘get a grip’ on the looming crisis amid threats of coordinated walkouts with other industries. They have repeatedly promised to pass laws to rein in such disruptive strikes. But there is no prospect of measures coming into force until well into next year.
Government sources last night insisted the ‘glimmering outline’ of a deal with the RMT was emerging but insisted ministers would not be bounced into a settlement.
‘We need to get a deal that works for all taxpayers, and that includes the taxpayers that don’t use the railways,’ said one insider.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s chief negotiator, said ‘no-one can deny the precarious financial hole in which the railway finds itself’ and that ‘striking makes that hole bigger and the task of finding a resolution ever more difficult’.
‘Only through reform, that will not result in anyone losing their job, can savings be made that can then be converted into an improved offer,’ he said.
‘While progress has been made over these last two weeks, we still have yet to find that breakthrough.’
Ministers are worried about setting a precedent with significant pay rises. Rishi Sunak warned his Cabinet yesterday that Britain faced a ‘challenging’ winter of strikes, inflation and NHS backlogs. Around 400,000 people are waiting more than a year for operations, compared with just 1,600 before the pandemic.
Food prices and energy bills have soared, with inflation at a 40-year high of 11.1 per cent and warnings of possible power blackouts. Downing Street said contingency plans had been drawn up to ‘mitigate some of the challenges expected this winter, including further strike action’.
The latest RMT action will see more than 40,000 workers at Network Rail and 14 train operators walk out for 48 hours on December 13 and 14.
They will do so again just a few days later on December 16 and 17, and then on January 3 and 4 and January 6 and 7.
No more than a fifth of trains will run and vast swathes of the country – particularly rural areas – will be completely cut off. Several operators rely on workers doing overtime to run a full timetable, and a union ban on this is part of the industrial action. Some trains will also not run the day after each 48-hour strike due to shift patterns.
Sarah Hayes of Bath-based So Delicious Cakes said: ‘These strikes will be another blow for the UK high street at a time when many small independents are in an existential struggle. It just feels like everything is stacked against small retailers and it’s been that way for nearly three years now. Lower footfall could send many small retailers into freefall.’
The RMT has already staged eight days of national walkouts in a bitter row over pay and job security that has been dragging on since June. The union called off three 24-hour walkouts at the eleventh hour earlier this month as hopes of a breakthrough grew and both sides entered ‘intensive talks’. But these stalled over the weekend, prompting the RMT’s announcement.
The union secured a fresh six-month mandate for strikes last week, meaning the walkouts could continue into next summer. It has so far snubbed a pay offer of 8 per cent over this year and next, with the deal worth up to 13 per cent for those on the lowest salaries.
Mr Lynch said at RMT HQ yesterday: ‘It’s been impossible to find a negotiated settlement when the dead hand of the Government is presiding over and blocking a resolution in these talks.’
But Tory MP Greg Smith, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘As if the earlier strikes weren’t bad enough, this is going beyond the pale at a time when businesses need the trade in a fragile economy and when it’s still term time and children need to get school.’
Train drivers’ union Aslef has called a strike for Saturday, which will bring most of the network to a halt.
Commercial Services Union (PCS) protest outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Around 100,000 civil servants have voted for a national strike over pay, pensions and jobs
Sector by sector, how the strike threat is growing
By DAVID CHURCHILL
Picket line: Tube workers strike in south London
Strikes by rail and postal workers have already caused major disruption – with other unions set to follow suit.
The industrial strife is being driven by demands for wage rises that match – or exceed – sky-high inflation.
The RMT, Aslef and TSSA rail unions want pay rises for staff in line with inflation at 11.1 per cent. These demands relate to more than 60,000 workers for Network Rail, which manages signalling and tracks, and to 14 train operators covering most of the nation.
Talks with Network Rail are at an advanced stage, with a potential deal about 80 per cent agreed. It has offered a pay rise of 8 per cent over two years and no compulsory redundancies for three years, which the RMT has snubbed. However, the 14 train operators are yet to make a formal offer despite the dispute having dragged on for six months.
The RMT’s announcement yesterday means their members will have walked out 16 times since summer if the strikes go ahead. Train drivers, represented by Aslef, have also walked out and will do so again for 12 operators on Saturday.
The Royal College of Nursing wants a 17 per cent pay hike for nurses. It argues the rise is fair, pointing to analysis showing that an experienced nurse’s salary has fallen by 20 per cent in real terms since 2010.
But the Government says it would cost around £9billion to meet the demands and has announced a pay rise for NHS staff in England of at least £1,400 – equivalent to 4 per cent – for 2022-23.
This month 102 out of 215 NHS trusts voted to strike after 300,000 RCN members were balloted. No strike dates have been set yet while talks continue. Walkouts will be on a trust-by-trust basis if no deal is reached.
The Public and Commercial Services union wants a pay rise of 10 per cent for around 100,000 workers. But the Cabinet Office has rejected the demands, saying they would cost £2.4billion.
Civil servants from the Home Office, the Department for Transport and the Environment Department will begin month-long targeted strikes from the middle of next month. The industrial action threatens to cause chaos at ports, borders and all areas of transport.
It will include agencies such as Border Force and the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, threatening to exacerbate long waits for documents such as passports and driving licences.
Workers from further departments will strike if the dispute isn’t settled.
The Communication Workers Union wants pay rises for 115,000 Royal Mail workers in line with inflation.
The formerly state-owned company has made an offer worth 9 per cent, including a 7 per cent salary increase over two years and a lump-sum payment of 2 per cent this year.
But the CWU has rejected it, announcing 11 days of walkouts on various dates between November 24 and Christmas Eve after balloting members. It means customers face delays with cards and presents.
TEACHERS AND LECTURERS
The three largest teaching unions – NASUWT, NEU and NAHT – are balloting more than 350,000 members on strike action. They all want pay rises for members of around 12 per cent, saying the Government’s offer of a 5 per cent increase is not good enough. Ballot results are not due until next year.
Lecturers and other staff will strike on November 24, 25 and 30 at 150 universities after the University and College Union balloted members.
The GMB union wants a 15 per cent pay rise for more than 1,150 G4S security workers who deliver cash and coins to banks and supermarkets. It has raised fears of cash shortages in the run-up to Christmas. The union has rejected G4S’s offer of a 4.5 per cent pay rise, plus bonus.
The Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto promised new laws to tackle the rail unions by forcing them to run a minimum level of services during strikes.
Ministers will hold talks with rail union chiefs this week to urge them to call off strikes aimed at causing ‘maximum disruption’ over Christmas.
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said: ‘What we need is we need more talking from the unions with the employers and less announcements of strikes.’
He said the consequences of the strikes announced by the RMT union in December and January would be ‘quite serious’, disrupting ‘medical appointments, for example, as well as the ‘family reunions’ taking place over the festive period.
‘The timing of these strikes are designed to create maximum disruption across the Christmas period,’ he said.
Mr Stride told TalkTV: ‘The Secretary of State is actually meeting the rail union leaders later this week, so there is that dialogue occurring.
‘The essential discussions have to occur between the rail operating companies, Network Rail and the unions, and they really should be engaging more on that and working things out between them more vigorously, in my view, than simply rushing off and going into strike action.’
The Government remains committed to plans to impose minimum service levels during strikes by transport workers, Cabinet minister Mel Stride said, although no timetable had been set out for the legislation.
The Work and Pensions Secretary told Sky News: ‘The Government has commitments in that area and to minimum service provision.
‘In due course, I have no doubt that will come forward and I do think it’s important, because we shouldn’t be left in a position with certain services – such as railways , where we have such an acute dependence upon them for a variety of reasons – where the plug can be pulled on the whole thing.’
Dozens of strikes are set to wreak havoc across the country before Christmas as part of union bosses’ plans to cause maximum disruption.
Union barons have repeatedly threatened to bring the nation to a standstill in what critics claimed was an attempt to force the first ‘general strike’ in nearly 100 years. Nurses, civil servants of all kinds, train and bus drivers, postal workers and even Asda workers have either agreed to strike or are considering it.
Mark Serwotka, the boss of the Public and Commercial Services union, which balloted 150,000 civil servants including Border Force staff – said it would co-ordinate with other unions to cause ‘chaos’.
The PCS said 13 days ago that the legal threshold for industrial action had been reached in 126 separate areas, covering workers including driving test examiners, border force officials and Jobcentre staff. Around 100,000 civil servants have voted to strike in a dispute over pay, pensions and jobs.
The Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) said the legal threshold for industrial action had been reached in 126 separate areas, covering workers including driving test examiners, border force officials and Jobcentre staff.
The union warned that unless it receives ‘substantial proposals’ from the Government, it will announce a programme of ‘sustained industrial action’ on November 18.
General secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘The government must look at the huge vote for strike action across swathes of the Civil Service and realise it can no longer treat its workers with contempt.
‘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.
‘Civil servants have willingly and diligently played a vital role in keeping the country running during the pandemic but enough is enough.
‘The stress of working in the civil service, under the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, job cuts and office closures means they’ve reached the end of their tethers.
‘We are calling on the government to respond positively to our members’ demands. They have to give our members a 10% pay rise, job security, pensions justice and protected redundancy terms.’
Earlier this month thousands of nurses across Britain voted to strike for the first time, leading to fears that death rates will rise if the walkouts spread. Strikes are expected to begin in early December and could take place over two dates, potentially a Tuesday and a Thursday. They could last until early May 2023.
The vote is the first time the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has balloted its more than 300,000 members in its 106-year history.
Health insiders fear lives will be lost as a result, with a ‘bank holiday service’ causing delays and cancellations of routine treatment and operations.
But RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: ‘We don’t intend to place any patient at further risk during the strike. We will manage that safely and effectively.’
This graph shows the Royal College of Nursing’s demands for a 5 per cent above inflation pay rise for the bands covered by its membership which includes healthcare assistants and nurses. Estimates based on NHS Employers data
NHS strike chaos could last SIX MONTHS and begin before Christmas
Historic strikes by NHS nurses could start within weeks and potentially last until May in a devastating blow to an already-crippled health service.
Health insiders fear lives will be lost due to the unprecedented walk-outs, which will affect dozens of hospitals. A ‘bank holiday service’ will cause further delays and cancellations of routine treatment and operations, worsening the backlog which already sits an all-time high.
More than 300,000 members were asked whether they supported striking over pay and working conditions by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), in the 106-year-old union’s first ever UK-wide ballot.
Nurses at more than 100 NHS trusts in England voted in favour, while some ambulance trusts and integrated care boards will also strike with chaos expected to reach all corners of the NHS. Every service in Scotland and Northern Ireland also backed the strikes, along with all but one health board in Wales.
The union has warned that strikes will kick-off before Christmas and run sporadically until May — spanning around six months.
Emergency care will not be disrupted by the walk-outs.
A senior NHS official insisted hospitals will do all they can to ‘minimise harm’ to patients but admitted that operations and appointments will inevitably be cancelled or postponed.
Specialist cancer hospitals, including London’s Royal Marsden and the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool, voted for action, putting chemotherapy appointments at risk. Care at maternity hospitals and specialist children’s hospitals will also be disrupted, while nurses will also strike at the biggest hospitals in London, including Guy’s and St Thomas’.
Ministers have refused to meet the RCN’s pay request, the equivalent of 17 per cent for every nurse, or £6,000 for the average medic earning around £35,000.
No10 argued the demands would effectively cost the taxpayer £9billion — equivalent to six per cent of the NHS in England’s entire budget — which ‘in the current climate is simply not deliverable’.
New Health Secretary Steve Barclay said it was ‘disappointing’ that nurses had voted to strike.
Tories have labelled the action ‘criminal’ and warned that lives will be lost as a result of the action. One MP told the Mail: ‘It’s not a job you choose if hoarding wealth is what you’re looking for.’
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the strike was ‘disappointing’ and nurses’ demands were ‘out of step’ with the economic pressures facing the country.
No10 also said the vote was ‘deeply regrettable’, emphasising it would cost £9billion to meet the RCN’s pay request, which ‘in the current climate is simply not deliverable’.
The Fair Pay for Nursing campaign is demanding a pay rise of 5 per cent above inflation.
NHS hospitals will do all they can to ‘minimise harm to patients’ if nurses go on strike, a national health leader has said, adding that industrial action is about more than pay.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents most NHS organisations, said there are national and regional plans to minimise the impact on patients, but admitted operations and appointments will have to be cancelled or postponed.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay will on Thursday hold talks with Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union behind the strikes, as he works to avert the industrial action.
Mr Barclay was willing to discuss how working conditions can be improved but was ‘not negotiating’ on pay, the PA news agency understands, as nurses demand a raise of at least 15%.
Mr Taylor warned that industrial action will be ‘a challenge’ for both 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,’ he told BBC Breakfast.
‘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.’
Some 3,500 Border Force, immigration and visa officers are threatening to strike over the holiday period, sparking agony for millions planning to travel home or abroad.
Meanwhile, postal deliveries will face delays, as more than 115,000 workers plan walk out. The CWU announced they will be notifying Royal Mail they plan to call on their members who collect, sort and deliver parcels and letters to take national strike action on Thursday 24 and Friday November 25 and for Wednesday 30 November and Thursday 1 December 2022.
And a calendar of further rail chaos is planned for November, with Network Rail, London Overground and London Underground staff walking out.
The RMT’s current six-month ‘mandate’ ends at the end of November. If members vote in favour and there is no breakthrough in talks, strikes could continue into Spring 2023.
Almost 1,000 bus drivers in London are to stage a series of strikes over pay.
Members of Unite employed by Abellio in south and west London will take 10 days of action in the run-up to Christmas.
The union said the company had not made an offer on pay even though an increase is due in January.
The workers will strike on November 22, 25, and 26 and on December 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Abellio is a vastly wealthy multinational company that could and should be paying its workers a fair pay increase.
‘With workers struggling to cope with rampant inflation, Abellio’s failure to even enter into meaningful pay talks is cold-hearted and callous.
‘Unite is now entirely focused on defending and enhancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and the bus drivers at Abellio will be receiving the union’s complete support.’
The TUC conference has already voted on ‘joint union action on the cost-of-living crisis and jobs’. It would be the first time since a one-day co-ordinated walkout in 2011, at the height of austerity, that unions have worked together to maximise disruption, and it could effectively deliver the first general strike since 1926.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said in her speech: ‘People ask me, ‘Will the TUC co-ordinate strike action this winter?’ And I say, ‘We already are’. 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, speaking at a fringe event, said: ‘We need an uprising, we need a whole wave of synchronised, co-ordinated action. I don’t care what it’s called… It’s going to be right through the winter and right into next spring. We’ve got to keep this fight going.’
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: ‘General strikes…We’ve already achieved it… We are going to call for synchronised action, generalised action.’