Royal FAIL: Millions face Xmas delivery chaos as 115,000 postal staff start first of six days of strikes TODAY – as NHS, bus and rail workers are among droves set to down tools over December

  • Christmas delivery chaos was set to begin this morning as strikes began
  • It comes ahead of a series of industrial actions over pay and conditions
  •  Train drivers, nurses and ambulance workers are set to strike next week

Thousands of postal workers across Scotland are taking a further day of strikes today as the UK braces itself for a Christmas of industrial actions.

Around 11,000 members of the Communications Workers Union (CWU) have been locked in a dispute over changes to working conditions with Royal Mail and shows little sign of being resolved.

The union claims Royal Mail imposed a 2% pay increase on members without consultation and is ‘refusing’ to treat employees with respect, according to general secretary Dave Ward.

They will walk out again on Sunday, with further action planned throughout December including Christmas Eve.

‘Royal Mail bosses are risking a Christmas meltdown because of their stubborn refusal to treat their employees with respect,’ said Mr Ward.

‘Postal workers want to get on with serving the communities they belong to, delivering Christmas gifts and tackling the backlog from recent weeks.

The Royal Mail Islington Delivery Office which is closed due to strike action. Picture date: Thursday December 1, 2022.

 

‘But they know their value, and they will not meekly accept the casualisation of their jobs, the destruction of their conditions and the impoverishment of their families.

‘This can be resolved if Royal Mail begin treating their workers with respect, and meet with the union to resolve this dispute.’

Some postal workers in Scotland will travel to London to join around 15,000 of their UK colleagues in what is being dubbed the biggest postal workers demonstration in living memory.

Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, and others

Earlier this week, the CWU’s Scottish Secretary hit out at Royal Mail, who laid on a breakfast for MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.

He said: ‘Rather than get back round the table, senior Royal Mail managers are offering MSP’s a free breakfast in an attempt to legitimise the destruction of our Postal Service.’

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: ‘We spent three more days at Acas this week to discuss what needs to happen for the strikes to be lifted.

‘In the end, all we received was another request for more pay, without the changes needed to fund the pay offer.

‘The CWU know full well that in a business losing more than £1 million a day, we need to agree changes to the way we work so that we can fund the pay offer of up to 9% we have already made.

‘While the CWU refuses to accept the need for change, it’s our customers and our people who suffer. Strike action has already cost our people £1,200 each.

Announcing the action, PCS chief Mark Serwotka said the union could escalate industrial action in the new year unless the deadlock is broken and also raised the prospect of co-ordinated action with other unions involved in disputes

A thousand Border Force passport staff at five major airports today became the latest public sector workers to walk out and ruin the festive plans of millions of Britons. Pictured, Border Force at Gatwick Airport

‘The money allocated to the pay deal risks being eaten away by the costs of further strike action.

‘The CWU is striking at our busiest time, deliberately holding Christmas to ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country.

‘We are doing everything we can to deliver Christmas for our customers and settle this dispute. During the last strike days, we delivered more than 700,000 parcels, and more than 11,000 delivery and processing staff returned to work.

‘We recovered our service quickly, but the task becomes more challenging as Christmas nears.

‘We remain willing to talk at any time about our best and final offer and urge the CWU to call off their damaging strike action.’

More than 100,000 PCS members across 124 Government and public sector offices have voted to strike, starting next week with motorway traffic officers, driving examiners and Rural Payments Agency staff. It will coincide with two 48-hour walkouts on the railways called by the RMT union, which is also set to cause travel chaos for millions.

Tens of thousands of nurses and postal workers will also strike next week, and ambulance staff will walk out on December 21 and 28.

MailOnline takes a look at how your Christmas plans are set to be affected by the strikes. 

Nurses – December 15, 20 

Nurses are set to walk out of A&E and will refuse to provide treatment to cancer patients for two days this month.

Up to 100,000 nurses will take industrial action on Thursday, December 15, and Tuesday, December 20, in a row over pay and staffing levels.

In a formal letter to NHS bosses, the Royal College of Nursing warned it would only commit to providing ‘life-preserving care’ on strike days. Services which do not meet this criteria include hospital discharges, radiotherapy and maternity services.

The union is demanding the Government offer nurses a pay rise of 17.6 per cent, which has been dismissed as ‘unaffordable’ by the Prime Minister. The default position will be that nurses will walk out of A&Es unless trust bosses persuade them they cannot deliver a safe service without them.

Nurses are required by law to maintain a minimum staffing level to keep patients safe.

Therefore, some nurses will be exempt from the strike to provide this minimum level of service. The exact numbers remaining on the job will be negotiated locally between the RCN and each NHS Trust/Board.

Previous strikes by NHS staff have led to the cancellation of non-emergency ops and appointments. If your appointment is already scheduled for days where action takes place, it could be cancelled because it is probably not classified as urgent. Whether an individual appointment is axed or not will depend on if the date falls on a strike action day, and if nurses at the trust are walking off the job.

Another factor is how long the dispute between the Government and the union runs.

Some appointments not on strike days may also be delayed because more urgent procedures cancelled need to be prioritised.

The RCN handbook says nursing provision during the strike should be equal to the skeleton staffing for Christmas Day, although the NHS says it has well-tested procedures to limit disruption.

Emergency nurses in A&E and intensive care will keep working, as will district nurses who help elderly people in the community. Other exemptions will be negotiated at a local level.

Ambulance workers – December 21, 28

GMB, Unite and Unison confirmed their members will walk out from nine of England’s ten ambulance services, plus Wales, on December 21. The only NHS ambulance trust unaffected will be East of England. Ambulance workers represented by GMB will also strike on December 28.

The GMB members will strike at the:

  • South West Ambulance Service;
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service;
  • North West Ambulance Service;
  • South Central Ambulance Service;
  • North East Ambulance Service;
  • East Midlands Ambulance Service;
  • West Midlands Ambulance Service;
  • Welsh Ambulance Service; and
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service.

NHS ambulance trusts affected by strike action will draw up plans detailing the number of staff they believe they need on in order to provide ‘life and limb’ cover. These will be presented to unions with details likely to be confirmed over the next week. Unions anticipate the level of cover requested by some trusts could be higher than that provided on some non-strike days, given underlying staff shortages.

Unison, Unite and GMB will agree among themselves which staff do and do not work. The Army may be brought in to drive ambulances if needed.

Patients dialling 999 may face a longer wait to get through to a call handler but calls will be diverted to other regions if necessary to limit delays.

Calls will be triaged as usual, with unions pledging to respond to ‘life and limb’ calls. Category one calls include ‘life-threatening’ injuries and illnesses, including incidents where a patient’s heart has stopped or they are not breathing. Category two calls are ’emergency’ calls, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Those with less critical illnesses may not receive an ambulance response and could be told to make their own way to hospital or to seek care elsewhere.

Patients who rely on NHS ambulance services to transport them to hospital appointments may also be forced to make alternative travel arrangements.

Concerns have been raised that elderly people ‘may well die’ if there is no cover for trips and falls during ambulance strikes.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said there was ‘still a question’ over whether ambulance services would cover all emergency callouts during strikes. He said officials planned to meet on Thursday to discuss coverage of category two callouts – which cover heart attacks, strokes, epilepsy and burns.

But the minister told Sky News that falls tended to come under a category three emergency and ‘at the moment the trade unions are saying those things wouldn’t be covered’ but ‘the indication from the trade unions’ is that conditions such as heart attacks will be covered.

Rail workers – December 13-14, 16-17, 6pm on Christmas Eve to 6am on December 27, January 3-4, 6-7

There will be a number of 48-hour train strikes across the UK this month and further walkouts in January.

  • 13-14 December;
  • 16-17 December;
  • 24-27 December;
  • 3-4 January;
  • 6-7 January.

There will also be an overtime ban across the railways from December 18 until January 2, which will affect the number of services that can run.

The National Rail is not yet showing which rail lines will be running services, but said their timetables will be updated before the strikes take place.

The union represents workers at 14 train operating companies, so their services are likely to be affected:

Great Western Railway, Avanti West Coast, East Midlands Railway, LNER, Greater Anglia, Cross Country Trains, South Western, West Midlands Railway, Northern, GTR (including Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express), Southeastern, c2c.

Train drivers’ union Aslef said it has secured a fresh six-month mandate for strike action. It means it can coordinate with the RMT, which has also called strikes from December 24 to 27 and January 3-4 and 6-7, to bring further chaos to the railways.

Aslef boss Mick Whelan defended threatening more walkouts despite the average train drivers’ salary being £60,000.

He said: ‘Strikes are always a last resort. But the intransigent attitude of the train companies – with the Government acting with malice in the shadows – has forced our hand.’

Road maintenance – December 16-17, 22-25, 30-31, January 3-4, 6-7

PCS members working on England’s highways have announced 12 days’ strike action over Christmas and the New Year.

The National Highways employees, who plan, design, build, operate and maintain the country’s roads, will take part in a series of staggered strikes from 16 December to 7 January.

The action, which risks bringing the road network to a standstill, will coincide with planned strikes by RMT members on the railways.

PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘We know our members’ action could inconvenience travellers who plan to visit their relatives over the festive period, but our members have been placed in this situation by a government that won’t listen to its own workforce.

‘With the serious cost-of-living crisis they deserve to be paid properly for the important work they do, keeping our roads running safe and free. The government is in the driving seat here – it’s in a position to stop these strikes by putting money on the table.’

Bus workers – December 9-10, 15-17, 23-24

Almost 1,000 bus drivers employed by Abellio will strike on December 9, 10, 16 and 17.

The action will primarily affect buses in south and west London. Striking workers will be from depots in Battersea, Beddington, Hayes, Southall, Twickenham and Walworth. 

Some of the bus strikes have been called off. 

Unite said its members, employed by Metroline, have accepted an 11% pay increase, which the union said was a ‘significant improvement’ on the 4% drivers were originally offered.

As a result of the workers accepting the improved offer, the planned strike action for later this month has been called off.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘This is a significant victory for our members at Metroline who by standing together and being prepared to take industrial action, have secured a greatly improved pay offer.

‘This pay deal exemplifies how Unite’s commitment to always prioritise the jobs, pay and conditions of its members is delivering noteworthy financial dividends.’

Unite regional officer Laura Johnson said: ‘From the outset, Unite members were aware that Metroline could afford a better pay rise than it was offering and once our members announced strike action, fresh negotiations were held and an improved offer was made.’

Border Force staff – December 23-26, 28-31 

Around 1,000 Border Force workers at major airports will go on strike from December 23 to 26 and 28 to 31, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said.

According to figures compiled by flight data experts Cirium, around 2million passengers on 10,000 flights are expected to arrive at the airports over Border Force strike period.

RAF personnel have started training at Heathrow Airport to step in for striking guards.

The Border Force is responsible, on behalf of the Home Office, for passport control checks at all UK airports. But RAF personnel who are accustomed to checking travel documentation and questioning passengers will step in.

Training began this week, with troops seen shadowing immigration officials at Heathrow’s passenger terminals.

Military personnel are also expected to stand in for striking ambulance drivers and postal workers.

It is part of contingency plans which have been drafted by a ‘strikes unit’ within the Cabinet Office.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has urged people to rethink flying around Christmas as she warned of ‘undeniable, serious disruption’ for thousands if strikes go ahead.

In an interview with broadcasters, she said: ‘It’s very regrettable that they have made this decision to potentially strike over critical times in the run up and following Christmas as the New Year.

‘If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans.

‘I really want to urge people who have got plans to travel abroad to think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.

‘We’ve got plans in place that will involve, to a degree, bringing in some of our military colleagues to help us in a variety of roles.

‘Ultimately I’m not willing to compromise on security at the border, that’s the number one priority.

‘That may well have an adverse impact on convenience for people, frankly, whether it’s the time they have to wait for flights, or departures, they may well be delayed on arrivals and various travel plans. Ultimately security at the border is my number one non-negotiable priority.’

Heathrow Airport baggage handlers – December 16 from 4am for 72 hours 

Passengers at Heathrow Airport will face festive chaos after baggage handlers voted to strike on the second last Friday before Christmas. 

Ground handlers employed by a private contractor at the London airport will strike in a 72-hour row over pay, as Britain prepares itself for a ‘winter of discontent’. 

There will be around 350 members of Unite who work for Menzies that will walk out from 4am on Friday December 16.

Passengers have been warned that more travel chaos looms as the union confirmed that their action will lead to some flight disruption. It will come as schools break up for Christmas and families look to escape the capital for the festive period.

General secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Menzies needs to have a long, hard look at itself.

‘This is a highly lucrative company, which has made a fair pay offer to one group of its workers but isn’t prepared to make a similar offer to its ground handlers.

‘Unite is entirely dedicated to defending its members’ jobs, pay and conditions.

‘Our members at Menzies will continue to receive the union’s complete support.’

Unite said the ground handlers have been offered a flat rate increase – which it branded a real-terms pay cut.

Royal Mail postal – December 9, 11, 14-15, 23-24

Royal Mail workers will strike on seven days in December, including on Christmas Eve, in a long running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

The workers will now walk out on December 23 and 24, in addition to December 1, 9, 11, 14 and 15, the Communication Workers Union said in a statement, exacerbating concerns that Christmas post could be severely delayed. 

Nearly 99 per cent of CWU members voted in favour of strike action after rejecting a 2 per cent pay deal. 

‘The CWU want a negotiated settlement with Royal Mail Group and will continue to engage the company to that end,’ a spokesperson said. 

‘But those in charge of Royal Mail need to wake up and realise we won’t allow them to destroy the livelihoods of postal workers.’  

The postal service is looking to switch from a six-days-a-week letter delivery service to five, covering Monday to Friday only, under its Universal Service agreement.

The group will, however, look to maintain a seven-day parcel delivery service.

Sea ports and Eurostar

The only sea port mentioned in the PCS announcement setting out the location of Border Force strikes was Newhaven, East Sussex, from where ferry services operate to and from Dieppe, France. 

But the union still has time to reveal that the walkout will also take place in Kent, affecting the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel. 

That would likely cause severe disruption.

Eurostar is not affected by the Border Force walkout. But the RMT union has announced strikes on December 16, 18, 22 and 23 for its members who are employed as security staff by private contractor Mitie at London St Pancras International. 

The union said the strikes will ‘severely affect’ cross-Channel train services. Eurostar said ‘negotiations between Mitie and the union are ongoing’. 

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