Strikes update: healthcare workers, transport workers and baggage handlers’ strike dates

Image above: an ambulance

Healthcare workers to begin first set of strikes in the run up to Christmas

Key industries are planning strike action over the Christmas period, with strike dates continuing through December and into January. Services including mail, rail, ambulances, hospitals, airports, tubes and buses will be impacted.

As the cost of living continues to bite with inflation rising to 11.1%, most workers want their pay packets increased in line with inflation, and some also have specific grievances over pensions and working conditions.

See below for the strikes expected to affect London and Chiswick.

Ambulance staff

Around 10,000 ambulance workers including paramedics, control room staff and support workers will strike across most of England and Wales on 21 and 28 December

The walkout by the three main ambulance unions – Unison, GMB and Unite – will affect non-life threatening calls only. The Government said the military would be on standby to help out.

All the unions have asked for above-inflation pay rises. While NHS staff have seen an average rise of 4.75%, with a minimum £1,400 rise, many workers are suffering from real-terms pay cuts as inflation bites.

While the impact of the first ambulance walkout will be patchy, as Unison only has a strike mandate for half of England’s 10 regional services for the 21 December walkout, the only service which will be completely unaffected is the East of England.

Image above: doctors and nurses

Nurses

Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to strike on 15 December and 20 December, with action expected to last for 12 hours on both days.

The Royal College of Nurses wants a rise of 5% above the Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation – currently 14%. The Government says this year’s pay award, a 4.75% average increase, is in line with the independent NHS Pay Review Body recommendation.

The RCN had hoped the Government would enter negotiations before Christmas to prevent any disruption to the health service, but it says the Government rejected their proposals. The unprecedented industrial action is likely to seriously disrupt care.

Royal College of Nursing’s general secretary, Pat Cullen, said:

“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”

Image above: a SWR train at Chiswick Station

Rail workers

Rail workers first called strike days in June, and now further walkouts planned across December and January.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) wants a pay offer reflecting the rising cost of living – and a guarantee of no compulsory job losses. The RMT rail workers’ union have announced strikes on:

  • Tuesday and Wednesday, 13-14 December
  • Friday and Saturday, 16-17 December
  • 6.00pm Saturday, 24, until Tuesday, 27 December
  • Tuesday and Wednesday, 3-4 January
  • Friday and Saturday, 6-7 January

The affected companies are as follows: Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, London North Eastern Railway, London Overground, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Transpennine Express and West Midlands Trains.

Rail-industry bosses say changes need to be agreed to afford pay increases and ‘modernise’ the railway, something disputed by union bosses who point to excessive profits of private train operators.

Image above: an Abellio London bus

Bus drivers (strike cancelled)

Three days of strike action by more than 2,000 bus drivers, which would have affected dozens of services in south and west London, have been cancelled at the last-minute.

Unions for the drivers have confirmed that after a last-ditch improved pay offer the strikes will no longer go ahead.

Members of Unite employed by Metroline were due to begin strike action last week on Thursday (8 December) but have suspended all action indefinitely while they vote on fresh pay offer.

Unite regional officer Laura Johnson said:

‘Following last minute talks at Acas, the strikes scheduled for tomorrow have been suspended to allow our members to be balloted on the new offer.’

Image above: a baggage handler

Baggage handlers at Heathrow

Ground-handling staff for Menzies Aviation at Heathrow Airport will strike for 72 hours from 16 December. The dispute centres on a pay offer made to cargo workers but which has not been extended to baggage handlers.

Ten airlines likely to be affected, they are: Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Portugal, Austrian Airlines, Qantas, Egypt Air, Aer Lingus and Finnair.

The Unite union says cargo workers were offered a backdated 9.5% pay increase and a further 1% from January 2023, but baggage handlers have been offered only a flat-rate increase and face a real-terms pay cut.

A Heathrow spokesperson said :

“[We] encouraged airport partners who would be affected to continue with their contingency planning and we will support them to minimise the impact on passengers, should the strike go ahead.”

Image above: Royal Mail workers striking in Chiswick in September

Royal Mail workers

Postal workers plan strikes on 14, 15, 23 and 24 December after the Communication Workers’ Union extended  their programme of strikes in response to Royal Mail’s “unacceptable” recent pay offer.

Royal Mail has offered a pay deal it says is worth up to 9% over 18 months – but with inflation at 11.1%, the Communication Workers’ Union wants more.

During strikes, deliveries are affected, with the last days for Christmas post now 12 December for second class and 16 December for first class mail.

The CWU also objects to proposed changes to working conditions, including compulsory Sunday working. They added the Royal Mail needed to “wake up” and realise the union would not allow the company to “destroy the livelihoods of postal workers”.

A Royal Mail spokesperson said:

“Our preference is for an agreement with the CWU, but the change we need is not optional. They should be focused on a resolution to this dispute for their members and the long-term health of the business, rather than damaging strike action.”

Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Local chemists struggle to get hold of antibiotics for Strep A

See also: Cheese Market donates £5,000 to The Upper Room

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