December is seeing some of the most widespread and impactful industrial action ever in the UK, with massive disruption across the country’s public services.
Nurses, ambulance workers, rail workers, Royal Mail workers, bus drivers, Border Force staff, baggage handlers, driving examiners, and teachers are all currently striking or planning to strike across the UK this month.
Each of these strikes are rooted in calls for pay increases and improved working conditions, particularly in line with the rising cost of living during the UK’s ongoing economic crisis.
Striking generally involves workers refusing to come into work for a set period of time, but can also include employees refusing to do overtime or other extra tasks. The point is to cause disruption – with this month’s strikes, trains won’t run, mail won’t be delivered, and classes will be cancelled – which is used as bargaining power in negotiations for better working conditions.
Strikes are organised by trade unions, which are groups established to represent workers in public services and fight for their interests.
Indeed, each of the groups striking this month are doing so with different goals at the core of their campaigns. Ambulance workers and nurses are striking in England and Wales – and Northern Ireland for the latter - for above-inflation pay rises. Specifically, The Royal College of Nurses wants a rise of 5% above the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation.
In regards to transport, rail workers are set to strike across key dates in December as the RMT rail workers’ union continues to campaign for increased pay in line with the rising cost of living, and bus drivers across London are doing the same as the Unite Union also calls for pay increases.
In airports, baggage handlers at Heathrow Airport are set to strike for 72 hours from 16 December in a bid to counter the real-terms pay cut they are currently facing, whilst around 1,000 Border Force staff are set to walk out between Christmas and New Year in numerous UK airports due to concerns over pay and pensions.
Another hugely impactful strike is that of Royal Mail postal workers, who are striking on a number of days in the lead-up to Christmas in a bid for increased pay in line with inflation, and to reject proposed changes to working conditions including obligatory Sunday working.
Finally, schools will be affected in December and January: teachers in Scotland are set to strike on 7 and 8 December and 10 and 11 January over their rejection of offers of a 6.85% pay increase for the lowest paid, as they continue to argue for 10%.
The outcome of these strikes is yet to be seen, but workers – and much of the public, given that around 60% support industrial action – will be hoping for productive negotiations in order to avoid future disruption and secure workers the improvements that they hope for.
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