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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.

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

Many of the 40,000 workers set to strike for three days this week joined picket lines outside stations across the country on Tuesday morning, as the rail network ground to a halt. It comes as a separate strike sees much of the London Underground also closed.

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. Lawyers on Monday announced they would also go on strike next week, halting crown court cases.

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“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. 

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”. 

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

Rail and Tube workers 

There are 24-hour walkouts by members of the RMT union on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and a separate London Underground strike is taking place on Tuesday.

Some 40,000 signallers, maintenance and train workers at Network Rail – which is responsible for infrastructure such as track, stations and level crossings – and 13 train operators are involved in the RMT strike.

About 4,500 services will run on Tuesday compared with the usual 20,000. Some rail lines will be closed completely and the timetable will start later and finish earlier, running from 7.30am to 6.30pm. Services in Scotland and Wales will be affected despite operators not being directly involved because they rely on Network Rail staff to run services.

The strike 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.

The union said employers have only offered 2 per cent, with the possibility of 1 per cent more if workers accept proposed job cuts and changes to working practices.

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” and said they would “cause misery and chaos to millions of commuters”.

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.

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Crown court lawyers

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

The Criminal Bar Association announced that the “days of action” will start on Monday June 27. Defence barristers will refuse to take on new cases, forcing judges to delay hearings and put back trials.

Lawyers working in criminal justice say they cannot make a living any more, the BBC reports, with many moving 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. 

“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.”

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.”

British Airways workers at London Heathrow airport

British Airways check-in and ground staff at London’s Heathrow airport have voted to 

Go on 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 that 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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