Winter of discontent: Met Office is the latest public body to join mass walkouts as it prepares to announce strike plans this week

  • Forecasters are set to announce their backing for industrial action this week 
  • They are joined by health and safety inspectors and chemical weapons scientists
  • Met Office relied upon by ITV, armed forces, emergency services among others  
  • Workers from half a dozen frontline services vowing to strike in Christmas run up

The Met Office is the latest public body to join the mass public sector walkouts, as it prepares to go on strike.

Forecasters are set to announce their backing for industrial action this week along with health and safety inspectors, chemical weapons scientists at Porton Down and experts tackling bird flu and Covid.

The government are so far unwilling to meet the demands of £28 billion inflation-matching pay rises across the public sector.  

Nadhim Zahawi, chairman of the Conservative Party, risked angering unions further yesterday when he said that nurses should accept a real-terms pay cut to ‘send a message to Putin’.

The Met Office is the latest public body to join the mass public sector walkouts, as it prepares to go on strike. Pictured: Met Office HQ in Exeter

Nadhim Zahawi, chairman of the Conservative Party, risked angering unions further yesterday when he said that nurses should accept a real-terms pay cut to ‘send a message to Putin’

Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison, said that the NHS could face strikes for months.

This comes as the RMT rejected an improved pay offer from the Rail Delivery Group to head off more strikes.

The group are quickly approaching ‘D-Day’ as rail operators’ negotiations with the RMT have less than a day left to avoid rail strikes that will bring widespread disruption to travellers over the festive period. 

But the latest union to join the strike action is Prospect – a trade union which represents 30,000 scientists, engineers, managers and technical experts across the public sector. 

They’re set to announce ‘extraordinary backing’ and a formal ballot is expected to lead to strike action early next year.

RMT members in Network Rail and 14 other train companies will walk out on December 13, 14, 16, and 17, as well as January 3, 4, 6 and 7

 

Meteorologists and supercomputer operators at the Met Office are among those thought to backing industrial action, the Times reported, raising the prospect of interruptions to Britain’s weather forecasts.

While the BBC uses MeteoGroup and should remain unaffected, other broadcasters such as ITV use the Met Office, which is also relied upon by the armed forces, emergency services and government agencies.

A strike at the Atomic Weapons Establishment, which maintains Britain’s nuclear arsenal, was averted after Prospect accepted a 5 per cent pay offer.

Civil servants are thought likely to accept a similar rise.

Tensions are rising as strikes look set to take hold across the UK.

Unless a deal is struck by Monday evening, the RMT’s planned walkout looks set to go ahead. 

Britain is braced for a winter of discontent with workers from over half a dozen frontline services vowing to strike in the run up to Christmas and New Year.

Elsewhere, Currys has parted ways with Royal Mail as its courier amid fears items won’t reach customers due to strike action.

Royal Mail is locked in bitter talks with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) over conditions and pay.

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, (middle) at Westminster today with assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey (left) 

The feud – taking place in the crucial runup to Christmas – has led FTSE 250 electrical retailer Curry’s to abandon its partnership with the delivery firm, The Telegraph reports. 

The CWU staged the first strike in December on Friday and will continue industrial action with protests on Friday, December 9, and Sunday, December 11, with further dates in the pipeline.

As well as ambulance staff, nurses in the NHS are also due to hold two days of strikes this month while junior doctors are also set to be balloted on industrial action.

There is expected to be widespread disruption to transport in the run up to Christmas with further rails strikes, walk-outs by baggage handlers at Heathrow and possible action by Border Force staff.

The Fire Brigades Union meanwhile is balloting its members while industrial action is continuing at the Royal Mail.

Tory chairman Zahawi said that while he was ‘absolutely conscious’ of how difficult it was for many workers, the country simply could not afford inflation or above-inflation pay awards.

He said rising prices were being driven by higher energy costs due to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, as he appealed to unions to drop their demands.

‘This is not a time to be divided. We have to come together to, I hope, send a very clear message to Mr Putin that he can’t use energy as a weapon in this way,’ he said.

‘If you chase inflation or above-inflation pay then you will embed inflation for longer and hurt the most vulnerable. This is not a time to strike, this is a time to negotiate.

‘To ask for a 19% pay rise (for nurses) which would cost the NHS £10 billion I think is the wrong thing to do right now.

The CWU staged the first strike in December on Friday and will continue industrial action with protests on Friday, December 9, and Sunday, December 11, with further dates in the pipeline

‘If you accept all the inflation-level pay rises, that is about £28 billion. It would cost every household just short of £1,000. That is unsustainable when we are trying to be fiscally disciplined.’

Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen angrily dismissed Mr Zahawi’s attempt to link their action to the conflict in Ukraine.

‘Using Russia’s war in Ukraine as a justification for a real-terms pay cut for nurses in the UK is a new low for this Government. The public does not believe this kind of rhetoric and wants ministers to address our dispute,’ she said.

‘Nursing staff cannot afford their food and other bills and still fear the worst on energy this winter. Record numbers of nurses are leaving because they feel undervalued and patients are paying the price.

‘Ten days until our strike action is due to begin, I reiterate my commitment to meeting with ministers to address our dispute.’

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said:’Nadhim Zahawi’s allegation that Britain’s nurses, ambulance drivers and teachers are allies of Vladimir Putin is as ridiculous as it is disgraceful.

‘Rather than running down our NHS in an act of catastrophic self-harm and threatening to bring in the military, the minister should instead ask himself why health staff are leaving in droves.

‘The truth is, if pay and conditions are not dramatically improved, no army will be big enough to cover the vacancies, never mind strikes.’

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