Railway workers, postal workers, dockers: the UK faces inflation  related strikes

Railway workers, postal workers, dockers: the UK faces inflation related strikes

Workers are demanding wage increases in line with price increases, which reached 10.1% over a year across the Channel in July.

Rail workers, postmen, dockers: the UK is experiencing its worst strikes in decades with a fresh salvo beginning this week for better wages amid rising inflation and melting spending power. On Thursday and Saturday, tens of thousands of British rail workers were called on by unions RMT, TSSA and Unite to walk down work in a new episode of the industry’s biggest strike in 30 years, which began at the end of June.

During this school holiday season, Network Rail, the operator of the public network, warned that only one in five trains would run and urged Britons “only to travel if absolutely necessary”. On Friday, the entire London transport network will be almost paralyzed and will remain severely disrupted throughout the weekend.

Dockers at the port of Felixstowe (east England) – the country’s largest cargo port – start an eight-day strike on Sunday, threatening to paralyze much of the country’s freight traffic.

SEE ALSO – Inflation: Bank of England sees recession approaching

Inflation of 10.1% over one year

Everywhere the buzzword is the same: workers are demanding wage increases in line with inflation, which the Bank of England forecast hit 10.1% over a year in the UK in July and could top 13% in October. Purchasing power is being eroded by price increases at a record pace, demonstrating “the vital need (…) to defend the value of workers’ compensation,” said Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, one of the country’s main unions.

At the call of industry union CWU, more than 115,000 British postal workers have planned a four-day strike between late August and early September, and around 40,000 workers at telecoms operator BT will continue their first strike in 35 years. Actions are planned or have taken place in Amazon warehouses, among criminal defense lawyers or among garbage collectors.

“Employers are doing their best to help their employees get through this time,” the CBI employers’ union said in a statement Tuesday. “But a large majority cannot afford to increase wages enough to keep up with inflation,” he argued.

However, some strikes have recently been averted at the last minute after offers of compensation were deemed satisfactory. This is the case for workers at a Heathrow airport petrol station who threatened to disrupt traffic and eventually called off the strike. British Airways ground staff, demanding at least the restoration of wages cut by 10% during the pandemic, accepted a 13% increase and called off the strike.

Use of contract workers to replace strikers

If railroad workers continue their move on Thursday, it’s because negotiations are at an impasse with the multitude of private operators in the industry. They also turned down a salary offer from Network Rail, which they say is dependent on massive layoffs.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who refused to take part directly in the discussions, is singled out by the organizations and accused of not giving the companies enough negotiating mandate.

Another reason for the unions’ anger: the government has just changed the law to allow the use of agency workers to replace strikers. Famed London luxury department store Harrods was “the first employer to threaten its employees” to apply the law, as some employees are now voting in favor of a possible strike, according to Unite.

The moves could continue beyond the summer and also extend to education or healthcare officials, where the union has tackled “miserable” 4% pay offers.