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Strike hit Britain

Strike hit Britain

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A month of disruption on Britain’s railways has begun with a 48 hour strike affecting thousands of services. What impact will it all have?

A month of disruption on Britain’s railways has begun with a 48 hour strike affecting thousands of services. There are also postal strikes, walkouts by nurses and paramedics and industrial action by workers in a range of other sectors. What impact will it all have?

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For pubs and restaurants the latest round of rail strikes aren’t what they need after two years of disruption caused by Covid

“In the new tier 4 areas of south east England it’s off. No household mixing will be allowed over the holidays.”

ITV News clip

Within 48 hours of the government’s announcement on new Covid restrictions this restaurant lost 20 Christmas bookings.”

ITV News clip

In 2020, most people’s Christmas plans were disrupted or cancelled because of Covid restrictions.

In 2021, the fast-spreading Omicron variant had a similar impact as people were forced to isolate themselves over the festive period.

And now strikes look set to scupper people’s plans for a third year in a row.

Over 40,000 members of Network Rail and the fourteen train operating companies will take a series of 48 hour strikes on the 13th and 14th and 16th and 17th of December. And then again on January the 3rd and 4th and the 6th and 7th.”

Mick Lynch announces the RMT strike

The head of the RMT, Mick Lynch, said this morning the unions have a duty to take coordinated action in response to a generalised attack on working people. He was responding to the RMT’s new strike dates announced last night, starting at 6pm on Christmas Eve.”

ITV News clip

Mick Lynch has said a direct meeting with prime minister Rishi Sunak is the only way to end the deadlock over a long running dispute about pay and conditions, but that’s unlikely to happen. 

Government ministers claim that they stay out of negotiations, and that they’ve accepted the recommendations of independent pay bodies.

So that means there’s going to be a lot of disruption in the middle of Christmas party season, on one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year and as many people travel for Christmas.

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Last year we had similar with Omicron around, where people were advised not to go out, and basically the whole of Christmas was cancelled.”

Charlie Baker speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme

Charlie Baker runs two pubs in London and spoke to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

We’ve got a large function room above the pubs and a big floorspace and every single table was booked with parties anywhere from 10 to 15 and almost exclusively every single one has cancelled the three or four days that the train strikes are happening. It’s crippling.”

Charlie Baker speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme

UK Hospitality, which represents bars, pubs and restaurants, reckons the rail strikes could cost the industry one and a half billion pounds in lost takings and says cancellation rates are close to last year, when Omicron hit.

That’s bad news for a sector struggling with rising energy costs, 

Here’s Charlie Baker again…

Couple this with projecting forward for next year we’ve got rent rises happening of about 40,00 a year. We’ve got electricity, last month I was quoted rising from 46,000 a year to 175,000, so Christmas is so important.”

Charlie Baker speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme

Of course, strike action is designed to cause disruption. That’s the point. It’s one of the tools workers have if pay negotiations fail and they are designed to put pressure on employers by preventing them from running the service they usually provide. 

The cost of living crisis means that pay is not keeping up with rising prices and many workers are struggling with their own rent increases and energy costs. 

But the government and others argue that this wave of industrial action, which began on the railways and has now spread to many other industries, goes beyond what is justified at a time when a lot of people are feeling the squeeze.

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It’s not just the railways that are going to be affected by strikes.

Postal workers, Border Force staff, ground handlers at Heathrow airport, some bus drivers in London, paramedics in England and Wales and nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will all take part in industrial action too.

[Chanting] Thousands of postal workers calling on the boss of Royal Mail to resign. [Cheers] A mass walkout over pay and conditions.”

Channel 5 News clip

The 15th and 20th of December are the dates that members of the Royal College of Nursing will walkout over pay. The biggest strike in NHS history.”

Sky News clip

The nurses strike won’t affect emergency services and it will only impact hospitals where staff voted for action. Wards will have minimal staffing to make sure patients are safe, but it will cause record waiting lists to keep growing as procedures are cancelled.

The government is trying to soften the impact that all of this industrial action will have by coming up with contingency plans… like bringing in soldiers to replace striking Border Force staff… but it’s hard to imagine it will be enough to stop the disruption affecting many people’s lives.

This episode was written by Lewis Vickers and mixed by Hannah Varrall.