UK at risk of further strikes as teachers and NHS staff issue warning

·3-min read
NHS workers and Unison members (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive)
NHS workers and Unison members (Jane Barlow/PA) (PA Archive)

The UK could face further strike chaos after unions representing teachers and NHS workers warned of potential action over pay.

The National Education Union (NEU), which is the biggest teaching union, has warned that it plans to ballot 450,000 of its members unless it receives a pay increase in line with inflation.

Strike action could take place in schools in England in autumn, the union told the Observer.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said the union will ballot its members unless the Government offers around the three per cent rise it touted earlier this year.

He said: “If there is no significant improvement on 3 per cent – which will leave an 8 per cent gap with inflation this year alone – we cannot avoid a ballot. The mood among teachers has changed. Last year the issue was mainly workload. This year it is workload and pay.

“Teachers are doing calculations to see what their hourly pay works out at. Pay is already down 20 per cent on 2010. The strains are showing. One in eight of new graduate teachers are leaving in their first year.”

Millions of NHS workers are set to receive their annual pay offer soon and there are fears that it will fall short of inflation, which is running at 9.2 per cent.

Unison, the biggest union representing NHS staff, has warned that the pay offer could lead to a mass exodus of staff combined with industrial action in hospitals.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea added: “The government has a simple choice. Either it makes a sensible pay award, investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients.”

“Or it risks a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.”

It comes as more than 40,000 members of RMT will stage 24-hour walkouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in a dispute over proposed job losses and their demand for pay hikes that will keep pace with inflation.

Only one in five trains will run on the three strike days, but services will also be hugely disrupted during the rest of the week.

The Transport Secretary has accused the biggest rail workers’ union of “punishing millions of innocent people” by pressing ahead with next week’s train strikes.

Grant Shapps said the Rail, Maritime and Transport union had repeatedly been urged not to go ahead with the “damaging” strikes and instead concentrate on negotiating a deal.

He said the strikes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week risk disrupting a range of sectors across the country, causing “misery” to the general public.

He said: “Sadly they have ignored these requests time and again, and we are now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country.

“Many people who do not get paid if they can’t get to work face losing money at a time they simply can’t afford to.

“Children sitting exams will face the extra distraction of changing their travel plans.

“And vulnerable people trying to attend long-awaited hospital appointments may have no choice but to cancel.

“By carrying out this action the RMT is punishing millions of innocent people, instead of calmly discussing the sensible and necessary reforms we need to make in order to protect our rail network.”

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