A general strike in all but name - so when WILL Rishi Sunak get a grip on the chaos? 

Rishi Sunak is coming under increasing pressure to rein in militant unions tonight ahead of a wave of co-ordinated Christmas strikes that will bring Britain to a halt. 

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. 

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union said arrivals staff at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow will strike from December 23 – 26 and December 28. 

And tonight, the RMT union warned that a resolution to the ongoing rail dispute is ‘further away’ following Government intervention, as it confirmed that planned strikes by tens of thousands of railway workers later this month and in early January would go ahead.

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

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

Rishi Sunak

Keir Starmer

In bruising clashes with Keir Starmer (right) at PMQs, Rishi Sunak (left) insisted he had to ‘protect’ the public when bodies such as the RMT were being ‘unreasonable’.

The RMT union warned that a resolution to the ongoing rail dispute is ‘further away’ following Government intervention. Pictured, Mick Lynch, general secretary of RMT union

RMT supporters protest outside offices of Network Rail in the summer. Strike action will take place next week and between Christmas Eve an 27 December

RMT supporters protest outside offices of Network Rail on July 27, 2022

Rail unions have already said they will wreak havoc on the train network over Christmas, while postal staff will join picket lines instead of delivering last-minute presents and cards. 

And NHS nurses and paramedics are also due to walk out for several days, with fears that soldiers will have to be drafted in to cover gaps in care.

Quizzed tonight as to whether Britain would end up gridlocked over the festive period, the Prime Minister vowed he would not be offering unions more money to solve the various pay disputes.

Mr Sunak insisted the Government had approached pay rows with ‘the spirit of reasonableness’ and accepted the recommendations of independent public sector pay bodies.

He told ITV News: ‘In each case, the Government has accepted those recommendations in full even where in some cases those pay recommendations are higher than the pay increases people are receiving in the private sector.

‘Many people watching will not be seeing their wages going up that much.

‘The Government accepted them in the spirit of reasonableness and if union leaders are not going to be reasonable, then my priority is always going to be to protect people’s safety and to minimise disruption on their day-to-day lives.

‘I will do whatever I need to do to ensure that that’s what we can make happen.’

On Wednesday evening the RMT said that a resolution is ‘further away’ after late intervention by the Government in talks aimed at resolving the row over pay, jobs and conditions. 

The RMT said it has heard from rail companies that there will be no revised offer from them, after being ‘instructed’ by the Government instead to ‘take on’ planned strikes next week.

‘It is now absolutely clear that the Rail Delivery Group’s attempts to resolve the dispute by making a revised and improved offer have been blocked by the Government,’ the RMT said.

‘The companies know that RMT cannot, and never will, accept the implementation of driver-only operation (DOO) as a national principle for operating the railways.

‘It is also clear that it is the Government itself, and not the RDG, that insisted that DOO was inserted in to the proposals on Sunday evening as a pre-condition, and the responsibility for the failure to progress proposals towards a resolution lies solely with the Government, who have torpedoed the dispute resolution process.

‘The planned Industrial action for RMT train operating company members goes ahead as scheduled, as there is no resolution to the dispute and in fact a resolution is now further away due to the Government’s late intervention in the negotiating process.’

Rishi Sunak is coming under increasing pressure to rein in militant unions tonight ahead of a wave of co-ordinated Christmas strikes that will bring Britain to a halt

Rishi Sunak is coming under increasing pressure to rein in militant unions tonight ahead of a wave of co-ordinated Christmas strikes that will bring Britain to a halt

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

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

NHS nurses and paramedics are also due to walk out for several days, with fears that soldiers will have to be drafted in to cover gaps in care. Pictured,NHS staff preparing to march from St Thomas' Hospital to Downing Street in protest in July

NHS nurses and paramedics are also due to walk out for several days, with fears that soldiers will have to be drafted in to cover gaps in care. Pictured,NHS staff preparing to march from St Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street in protest in July

Steve Montgomery, chair of the Rail Delivery Group, said: ‘Regrettably, the RMT leadership’s refusal to put our proposed eight per cent pay offer to its membership means we are unable to reach a resolution at this stage, although we remain open to talks. With the deadline having passed where disruption could be avoided even if strikes were called off, our focus is on giving passengers the maximum possible certainty so they can make their festive plans.

‘No one wanted to see these strikes go ahead, and we can only apologise to passengers and to the many businesses who will be hit by this unnecessary and damaging disruption.

‘We continue to urge RMT leaders to put our proposals to their members rather than condemning them to weeks of lost pay either side of Christmas during a cost-of-living crisis.’

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: ‘The RMT has deliberately chosen to try and ruin Christmas for millions of passengers and businesses. 

‘They’re also intent on inflicting a monumental act of harm on an industry still desperate to recover from post-Covid challenges by sabotaging a vital £100 million programme of rail upgrades planned for Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

‘The industry will do all it can to keep services running and projects on-track but serious disruption is inevitable given the RMT’s action.

‘In talks over the months, we have sought to address all the RMT’s concerns by putting a decent pay rise on the table, guaranteeing a job for anyone that wants one, significantly raising base salaries for the lowest paid and offering a new, huge rail travel discount scheme for members, and their families. By any reasonable measure, we have put a fair deal on the table.’ 

On Wednesday night the PM said that it is ‘simply not true’ that the Government will not speak to unions about pay.

‘We’ve been talking to the unions consistently because I want to make sure we are always going to try and be reasonable, but what I’ve also said is if the union leaders are not prepared to be reasonable themselves, then it’s my responsibility to make sure that everyone can be kept safe, and that we can minimise the disruption on their day to day lives. And I will do what I need to do to ensure that is the case,’ Mr Sunak said.

He said that the priority is to keep the public safe and minimise disruption when asked about minimum service level obligations for public services.

‘I think when it comes to all these things, the government is always going to be reasonable,’ he said. ‘And that’s why we’ve accepted the recommendations across the board in all sectors of the independent Pay Review Body. And these are bodies that make a recommendation to the government about what a fair pay settlement is. 

‘In many cases those recommendations were more than people in the private sector were getting.’ 

He added: ‘What I said today in parliament is that the government is always going to be reasonable. We’ve been very reasonable in how we’ve approached these pay settlements. 

‘We’ve accepted the recommendations of independent bodies. But if unions leaders are not going to be reasonable, then I need to do what I need to do in order to keep people safe, and to ensure that people can go about their day to day lives free of the enormous disruption that these strikes are going to cause.’

Earlier today, the PM told the House of Commons he would get ‘tough’ on unions calling strikes in a deepening row over public sector pay and conditions.

But any legislative changes like tightening strike laws would come too late to avert action this month. 

NHS, education, and postal staff, as well as driving instructors, are also planning to strike over the festive season (pictured, a recent rally by unions in London)

NHS, education, and postal staff, as well as driving instructors, are also planning to strike over the festive season (pictured, a recent rally by unions in London) 

Mark Harper

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak (right) is facing Tory calls to get a grip on strikes with a million workers due to walk out this month. Transport Secretary Mark Harper (left) has urged rail unions not to recommend their members reject offers aimed at resolving industrial disputes

Downing Street was also  forced to deny it was simply posturing this afternoon when it refused to give any details of changes it could make to ease the festive gloom felt by families across the country.

Already gripped by a fragile economy and soaring bills, many now face an uphill struggle to visit loved ones and send gives to bring much needed cheer. 

Announcing the action PCS chief Mark Serwotka warned that the PCS will 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.

He admitted that the action was being timed to cause maximum inconvenience for travellers, saying: ‘Your anger should be directed at Rishi Sunak, Jeremy Hunt and the Tory government who crashed our economy … on an ideological binge, that we’re paying the price for.’

The union has already announced strikes at the Department for Work and Pensions, the Highways Agency and among driving examiners. 

It came after Mr Sunak today vowed to do his ‘duty’ by passing legislation to rein in unions wrecking Christmas with a wave of strikes.

London bus strike off after 11% pay offer accepted by Unite

Industrial action involving more than 2,000 bus drivers in London has been called off after the workers accepted an improved pay offer.

Unite said its members, employed by Metroline, have accepted an 11 per cent pay increase, which the union said was a ‘significant improvement’ on the 4 per cent 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.’

In bruising clashes with Keir Starmer at PMQs, Mr Sunak insisted he had to ‘protect’ the public when bodies such as the RMT were being ‘unreasonable’.

The bullish stance came as ministers warned the government cannot go further than the pay offers it has made, with Health Secretary Steve Barclay claiming that handing inflation-matching rises to everyone in the public sector would cost £28billion a year. 

No10 later refused to rule out new laws that would ban medics like nurses and paramedics from striking in the same way police are barred from walking out. But they  declined to give any details. 

Mr Serwotka this afternoon said: ‘The Government can stop these strikes tomorrow if it puts money on the table.

‘Like so many workers, our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. They are desperate. They are being told there is no money for them, while they watch ministers giving out Government contracts worth billions of pounds to their mates.

‘Some sections of the media have accused us of playing politics with these strikes. Let me be clear: our dispute is with the employer.

‘We will fight to improve our members’ pay, terms and conditions regardless of who is in Downing Street.’

A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘Our priority is to ensure passengers get through the border safely and as quickly as possible.

‘We are working closely with airlines and Border Force on mitigation plans for potential strike action by Border Force officers and these plans will now be implemented for the notified days.

‘The Home Office advises that immigration and customs checks may take longer during peak times on strike days, and Heathrow will support Border Force to minimise these impacts with the aim of processing passengers through the border as efficiently as possible.

‘Passengers are advised to check their flight status with their airline before travelling. We encourage all parties to resolve this dispute quickly.’  

Two 48-hour rail walkouts next week, on December 13-14 and 16-17 are going ahead, along with two more on January 3-4 and 6-7.

However, the RMT union cancelled an overtime ban from December 18 to January 2 which could have caused hundreds of last-minute cancellations. Several operators rely on overtime working to run a full timetable.

General Secretary Mick Lynch has said a new pay rise offer of 9 per cent over this year, backdated to January, and next will be put to workers in a referendum. The offer also includes no compulsory redundancies until 2025.

But Mr Lynch said the union will encourage members to reject it. The result will be announced on Monday.

It means that next week’s strikes will go ahead come what may, but the December 24-27 and January action will be called off if members accept it.

In their Commons confrontation, Sir Keir said Mr Sunak should stop ‘sitting on his hands’ and ‘get round the table’ with unions.

But the premier told the Commons: ‘Hard-working families right now in this country are facing challenges.

‘The Government has been reasonable. It’s accepted the recommendations of an independent pay review body, giving pay rises in many cases higher than the private sector.

‘But if the union leaders continue to be unreasonable, then it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public.

‘That’s why, Mr Speaker, since I became Prime Minister I have been working for new tough laws to protect people from this disruption.’

The boss of the militant RMT union, Mick Lynch, announced an escalation in strikes after pay talks broke down with rail operators

The boss of the militant RMT union, Mick Lynch, announced an escalation in strikes after pay talks broke down with rail operators

He said if Sir Keir wanted to ‘stand up for working people’ he would back the legislation.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Government work on new measures was ‘ongoing’, but declined to provide any timeline for any laws.

He said the Government was ‘certainly not planning to stop the minimum service legislation’.

On the plans, the spokesman said: ‘We keep the powers under review and obviously in light of what we are seeing with effectively rolling strikes, the Prime Minister thinks it is right to push ahead with new powers.’

No details about what the powers might be were forthcoming.

Tories have been urging Mr Sunak to push ahead with legislation curbing the powers of unions to bring the country grinding to a halt. 

MPs are also griping that he needs to ‘make the case better’ that fundamental change in the public sector is the only way to raise performance and wages.

The government has accused rail union barons of ‘holding the country to ransom’ after adding more strike days from December 24-27. Even if the dispute was settled immediately – which seems a remote possibility – managers have warned that services will still be in chaos. 

NHS, education, and postal staff, as well as driving instructors, are also planning to strike over the festive season. Altogether around a million workers are said to be set to down tools in the coming weeks.

But Mr Barclay made clear this morning that the government is not willing to go any further on pay. 

‘If we were to accept for everyone in the public sector getting a pay rise in line with inflation, that would cost £28billion,’ he told GB News.

‘It’s not reasonable to expect a further £28billion pounds in pay uplifts in line with inflation because there are many other pressures within the NHS that we need to address, to get those patient backlogs down, to address the operations that people are waiting for, to address the pressures at 8am on primary care when people are trying to find a GP and also to support ambulances and paramedics.

‘We’ve had a significant increase in paramedic staff, a 40 per cent increase since 2010. So we are investing in our paramedics. We’ve got 3,000 a year in training, but it’s right that we do that alongside the discussions on pay.’

Tories are alarmed about a repeat of the ‘winter of discontent’ that effectively destroyed the Callaghan government in the 1970s. 

One MP told MailOnline that the government should be bringing in minimum service level rules for rail, pointing out that key staff such as prison guards are not able to strike.

But they delivered a downbeat assessment – admitting ministers seem unwilling to go ahead. ‘If they don’t we are going to have all these strikes. This feels so much like what it was like in the past when we had inflation. The Labour government didn’t know what to do about it. The government is in a bind.’    

A minister told the Financial Times: ‘If the Christmas Eve strike goes ahead, we need to crack on with the anti-strike laws early in the new year.’ 

Mark Harper has urged rail unions not to recommend their members reject offers aimed at resolving industrial disputes.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union will press ahead with strikes from next week after it recommended its members should reject the latest offer from Network Rail.

Mr Harper told the Commons Transport Select Committee: ‘My department spends something over 60 per cent of the department’s total spending on capital and revenue on railways, and only 10 per cent of journey miles in the country are on rail.

‘I just think we have to get that into a better sense of balance. That’s what we’re trying to do with the unions.

‘I would still urge the unions to keep talking, put those deals to their members with at least a neutral recommendation, and call off the strikes before Christmas which are going to be so damaging to individuals and businesses across a whole range of sectors.

‘The Government will do what we can to try and encourage both employers and unions to keep talking.’

Two 48-hour rail walkouts next week, on December 13-14 and 16-17 are going ahead, along with two more on January 3-4 and 6-7.

However, the union cancelled an overtime ban from December 18 to January 2 which could have caused hundreds of last-minute cancellations. Several operators rely on overtime working to run a full timetable.

Mr Lynch said a new pay rise offer of 9 per cent over this year, backdated to January, and next will be put to workers in a referendum. The offer also includes no compulsory redundancies until 2025.

But Mr Lynch said the union will encourage members to reject it. The result will be announced on Monday.

It means that next week’s strikes will go ahead come what may, but the December 24-27 and January action will be called off if members accept it.

December train strikes: What dates are the walkouts? Which rail lines will be affected? How will travel in and out of London be impacted? Will TfL Tube services still run?

A new set of strikes by rail workers across December will massively disrupt travel across Britain in the run-up to Christmas.

People looking to travel by train this month face one of the worst series of strikes in decades, as more than 40,000 Rail, Maritime and Transport union members plan to take industrial action.

The militant union chiefs have been accused of holding British people’s Christmas plans to ransom after rejecting a pay offer.

While RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘We’ve been faced with an extremely detrimental offer and our members simply aren’t in a position to accept the changes the companies have put on the table.’

The UK is set for travel chaos as more than 40,000 RMT members plan to strike over the next two months, including over Christmas

The UK is set for travel chaos as more than 40,000 RMT members plan to strike over the next two months, including over Christmas 

What dates are the walkouts? 

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.

Which rail lines will be affected? 

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.

RMT union, who represents staff at Network Rail, will be on strike for seven days this month

RMT union, who represents staff at Network Rail, will be on strike for seven days this month

How will travel in and out of London be impacted? 

Services will be cancelled or severely disrupted across strike dates, so it is likely that there will be a very limited service on these days in or out of London – with no trains at all on some routes.

Non-union members and managers will enable a service to run between 7.30am and 6.30pm across about half the rail network.

Around 80 per cent of services across the UK are likely to be cancelled on strike days.

Will TfL Tube services still run?

There are currently no Tube strikes planned before the end of 2022 and most TfL services will continue to run.

However there will be some disruption on strike days where track is operated by Network Rail. 

Disruption from Friday December 23 2022 to Monday January 2 2023 will occur due to planned works and service changes for the Christmas and New Year period.

There is also a part-closure on the Bakerloo line and London Overground from Saturday 17 to Friday 23 December 2022.

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