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Nurses likely to join postal, education and rail staff in pre-Christmas strikes | Industrial action

Britain is facing a torrid month of union action and disruptions before Christmas, with nurses likely to join postmen, education and railway workers in a wave of strikes that will peak during the busiest weeks for office parties and festive shopping.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is expected to announce unprecedented industrial action after the expiry of a deadline given to ministers following a strike vote more than two weeks ago.

It is likely the first in a series of winter and spring strikes by NHS staff, including junior doctors and paramedics.

The expected move came as postmen, university staff and Scottish school teachers went on strike on Thursday, while railway unions reaffirmed plans for eight days of national strikes despite a “positive” meeting with ministers.

While unions have said there are no plans for general strikes, several unions have discussed coordinating industrial action to maximize disruption and political impact. The RMT leader, Mick Lynch, has called for “a wave of action” on behalf of low-wage workers, a phrase echoed by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, although she said synchronization was not always the most effective strategy.

After meeting with Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Thursday, Lynch said the minister had “started a dialogue” and “got rid of the bellicose nonsense” under recent predecessor Grant Shapps.

However, Lynch ruled out calling off the eight days of strikes in December and January. He said: “If we call off the strikes, we will never get a settlement… My members will not forgive me. I made a commitment – until we have a tangible Result, the action will continue.

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Harper described the meeting at the Department for Transport as “constructive” and added: “A deal needs to be struck, and I believe we will get to it – I want to help the RMT and employers get to an agreement and dispute.” for the benefit of the traveling public.”

Harper is due to meet Aslef train drivers’ union general secretary Mick Whelan next week, following another 24-hour train drivers’ strike on Saturday, November 26, which halted services on lines across Britain.

Meanwhile, there were picket lines outside schools, universities and mail sorting centers as the latest wave of union action began on Thursday.

Up to 2.5 million students were expected to experience disruptions in what was billed as the largest strike in British higher education history.

About 70,000 University and College Union (UCU) members, including teachers, librarians and researchers, began a 48-hour strike on Thursday, with another one-day strike scheduled for next Wednesday, in a dispute over wages, pensions and contracts.

Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “If the university’s rectorates don’t take it seriously, our message is simple: this strike will be just the beginning.”

University administrators, cleaners, security and catering staff in Unison are also unionizing over wages at 19 universities.

In Scotland, schoolchildren stayed home as teachers across the country staged their first national strike over pay in nearly 40 years after decrying the latest pay offer as an “insult”.

Only a few primary schools in Orkney and Shetland reopened on Thursday as thousands of members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) took part in a one-day strike. Two more school strikes by other unions are planned for December.

Tens of thousands of Communications Workers Union members who work for Royal Mail also walked out on Thursday, in the first of 10 days of strikes before Christmas. Strikes are expected to impact deliveries from this week’s peak Black Friday shopping day, with the final action due to take place on Christmas Eve.

Speaking from a picket line in London yesterday, CWU general secretary Dave Ward said Royal Mail was not paying overtime for overworked workers, accusing them of a “psychological attack”. The CWU has rejected a 9%, 18-month pay deal, saying plans to change working conditions by Royal Mail would make it a “gig-economy style” employer.

The economic impact of the strikes remains uncertain, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), whose growth figures have previously estimated the impact of shutdowns such as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September.

“There is a lot of displacement with activity happening before or after the days when there are strikes,” a spokesman said. The ONS has only recently started collecting data on strikes again after taking a break during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the four months from June to September, nearly three-quarters of a million days were lost to union action.

Despite being on course for more than a decade to become the highest numbers, they are much lower than in the peak years of the strikes in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1979, the year of the winter of discontent, a total of 29 million days were lost to union action and 27 million to the one-year miners’ strike of 1984-1985.

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