Strike wave sours Christmas mood, disrupts travel – DW – 12/23/2022 | Daily News Byte


Border control workers were the latest to join a group of public workers in the United Kingdom who have walked off their jobs this year, in an attempt to implement higher pay rises amid a once-in-a-generation cost-of-living crisis.

The UK government sent in military personnel and civil servants to keep the airport open on Friday during their busiest time of the year.

The strike coincides with a train strike as well as strikes by nurses, ambulances and paramedics that have taken place or are planned for this week. More strikes are planned in the new year.

In neighboring France, strike action among public workers has also dampened the Christmas mood. Many French residents are planning to visit their families for Christmas because of the train strike on Friday.

Why is the UK on strike?

The economic stagnation and subsequent lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic, closely followed by the economic consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has taken its toll on the global economy.

The UK is also in the process of exiting the European Union, which has also had an impact on the British economy.

Double-digit inflation, reaching nearly 11%, has caused a cost-of-living crisis, the first of its kind in decades.

Rising costs in the UK are pushing more people into poverty

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Public sector workers are trying to use the strike as a tool to pressure the Conservative government into a pay rise that could address what they see as a dire situation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said that the only way to improve the economic situation is to reduce inflation.

In statements on Friday, Sunak was vocal about rejecting strike action.

“I’m really sad, and I’m disappointed at the disruption to so many people’s lives, especially at Christmas time,” he said during a visit to a homeless shelter in London.

Who is striking in the UK?

Border control workers are planning to extend their strike until the end of the year, with only a break on December 27.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, told BBC radio that the strike follows disputes over pensions and job security, in addition to struggles over the cost of living.

“Forty thousand of our members are using the food bank, 45,000 of them are claiming in-work benefits. They are the working poor,” he said.

NHS nurses hold placards during a strike amid a dispute with the government over pay outside St Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain on December 15, 2022.
This month’s strike by British nurses is considered unprecedented in the profession’s nearly 100 years of service.Image: Henry Nicholls/REUTERS

They join thousands of National Health Service nurses who are walking off their jobs for 24-hours on Tuesday. It was the second strike this month in unprecedented action by nurses in nearly 100 years. More strikes are planned for January 18 and 19.

Ambulance drivers, paramedics and dispatchers have also announced a strike for December 28, after walking out earlier this week. Other striking occupations include postal workers and highway maintenance workers.

Trains and buses are also expected to be affected by the strike on Saturday, Christmas Eve.

A strike in France

To the east, in France, a volatile global economy this year has also forced public workers out of their jobs.

The Christmas weekend could see almost half of the country’s train conductors on strike. One-third of train services were canceled on Friday, with a further 40% over the weekend, the National Rail Authority said.

Passengers wait in front of a Flixbus bus at Bercy bus station in Paris during a strike by train guards at France's state-owned railway operator on December 23, 2022.
The train strike disrupted the journey of many passengers eager to get home for ChristmasImage: NOEMIE OLIVE/REUTERS

Striking workers are demanding higher pay and more staff, as a similar cost-of-living crisis bites the economy.

The strikes come after the pandemic disrupted the holiday season in the past two years, with some residents in the UK and France looking forward to a more normal Christmas.

rmt/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters)


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