Wave of strikes sour Christmas mood, disrupt travel – DW – 12/23/2022

Border control workers were the latest to join a group of UK public servants who walked off the job this year in an effort to enforce higher pay rises amid a once-in-a-generation cost of living crisis.

The British government poured in military personnel and civilian workers to keep airports running on Friday, one of their busiest times of the year.

The strike coincides with train strikes, as well as strikes by nurses, ambulances and paramedics that took place or were planned this week. More strikes are planned for the new year.

In neighboring France, strike action among civil servants also dampened the Christmas spirit. Friday’s rail strikes affected many French residents who planned to visit their families for Christmas.

Why is Britain on strike?

Economic stagnation caused by the corona virus epidemic and the closures following it, and following it the economic results of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, took its toll on the global economy.

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Britain also faced the exit from the European Union, which also affected the British economy.

Double-digit inflation, reaching almost 11%, triggered a cost-of-living crisis, the first of its kind in decades.

Costs in the UK are pushing more people into poverty

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Public sector workers have tried to use the strikes as a tool to pressure the Conservative government to give them pay rises that could deal with what they see as the dire situation.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the only way to improve economic conditions is to reduce inflation.

In statements Friday, Sonk was vocal about his rejection of strike action.

“I’m really sad, and I’m disappointed at the disruption to so many people’s lives, especially at Christmas time,” he said during a visit to a homeless shelter in London.

Who is on strike in the UK?

Border control workers plan to extend their strike until the end of the year, with only a break on December 27.

Mark Cerwatka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, told BBC radio that the strikes followed disputes over pensions and job security, in addition to cost-of-living struggles.

“Forty thousand of our members use food banks, 45,000 of them claim benefits at work. They are working poor,” he said.

NHS nurses hold signs during a strike, over a dispute with the government over pay, outside St Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain, December 15, 2022.
The British nurses’ strike this month is considered unprecedented in the profession’s 100 years of servicePhoto: Henry Nichols/Reuters

They join thousands of NHS nurses who walked off the job on Tuesday for 24 hours. The strike was the second this month, in unprecedented action by nurses in about 100 years. More strikes are planned for January 18 and 19.

Ambulance drivers, paramedics and dispatchers have also announced a strike for December 28, after walking out earlier this week. Other prominent occupations include postal workers and highway maintenance workers.

Strikes are also expected to affect trains and buses on Saturday, Christmas Eve.

Strikes in France

To the east, in France, the shaky global economy this year has also caused civil servants to leave their jobs.

Over the Christmas weekend, almost half of the country’s train operators could be seen on strike. A third of regular train services were canceled on Friday, with another 40% canceled over the weekend, the National Rail Authority said.

Passengers wait in front of a FlixBus bus at the Bercy bus station in Paris during a rail guard strike at France's state-owned rail operator on December 23, 2022.
Rail strikes disrupted the journeys of many passengers who were eager to get home for ChristmasPhoto: NOEMIE OLIVE/REUTERS

Striking workers are demanding higher wages and more staff as the cost-of-living crisis bites into the economy.

The strikes come as a number of people in Britain and France were looking forward to a more normal Christmas after the pandemic disrupted the festive season over the past two years.

rmt/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters)


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