UK braces for pay disputes strikes

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London, Nov 10

A series of large-scale strikes across the UK over long-running pay disputes are set to disrupt daily life for the next few months and are also expected to take a huge economic toll.

Strikes on the London Underground will go ahead on Thursday after the government body Transport for London (TfL) and trade union representatives failed to reach an agreement, reports Xinhua news agency.

The unions had asked TfL to pause job cuts and changes to pensions.

"Our members are resolute in their determination to see a just settlement to this jobs and pensions dispute," said Mick Lynch, general secretary at The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.

"They will continue their industrial campaign for as long as it takes."

TfL has warned that there will be "limited or no services running" on Thursday, and passengers should avoid travelling on the Tube.

London Underground handles up to five million passengers a day, according to TfL. At peak times, there are over 540 trains running around the British capital.

Meanwhile, starting on November 18, around 700 workers at London's Heathrow airport will participate in a three-day strike.

These workers are responsible for a wide variety of roles, including ground handling, airside transport and cargo, said Unite, one of the largest trade unions in the UK.

The strike will particularly affect Qatar Airways, which has scheduled an additional 10 flights a week during the World Cup that starts on November 20.

Passengers returning to the US for the Thanksgiving holiday are also set to be adversely affected, United said.

Next, more than 70,000 university staff at 150 UK universities will strike for three days at the end of November over pay, working conditions and pensions.

The strike will be "the biggest ever to hit UK universities and could impact 2.5 million students", the University and College Union (UCU) said.

UCU's demands include a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis after employers granted a pay rise worth just 3 per cent this year. This followed over a decade of below-inflation pay rises, the union underlined.

More than 300,000 members have been urged to vote for strike action in the Royal College of Nursing's (RCN) biggest strike ballot in its 106-year history.

The ballot closed in early November, with results set to be announced at a later date.

Driven by rising food prices, Britain's Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by 10.1 per cent in September.

In the last few months, households have felt the squeeze due to persistently high inflation, which has heated up disputes over pay.

Average public sector earnings in July 2022 were 4 per cent lower in real terms than in July 2007, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Private sector earnings fared slightly better but were still only 0.9 percent higher on average in July 2022 than in July 2007.

The UK had also seen a summer of walkouts by staff in sectors including public transport, container port operation and postal delivery.

It took a huge economic toll.

As well as the huge impact on day-to-day life, economists have assessed that the first wave of rail strikes alone, in June 2022, cost the UK economy nearly 100 million pounds ($114 million).

This put extra pressure on businesses and stopped people across the country from accessing their workplaces during a cost-of-living crisis.


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