A fresh wave of industrial action across British transport and services starts this weekend as bus workers in Merseyside went on strike, while other action is due on the rail network and threatened at airports and at post offices.
The strike by Stagecoach drivers and other bus workers from Monday comes as Arriva bus drivers in West Yorkshire agreed to suspend strikes after a month of action, and while talks continued to head off more national rail strikes.
About 370 Unite members at Stagecoach in Merseyside are due to strike for eight days in July, while a ballot of a further 1,800 Arriva bus staff across north-west England closes on Monday, in parallel disputes over pay.
Unite warned that there would be severe disruption but said there was “deep-seated anger” among its members over low pay. Its general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “Stagecoach makes money hand over fist. Our members are making it abundantly clear that they will not accept being underpaid by this wealthy company any longer.”
Stagecoach said it had made an offer that would have made its drivers, who are striking on 4, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25, 28 and 29 July, the highest paid in Merseyside.
Of the ballot of Arriva drivers in the north-west, Graham said the operator had failed to make a “realistic offer”, with RPI inflation now running at 11.1%.
The company has now made an improved pay offer in West Yorkshire, where services will resume on Saturday after a four-week strike that stopped buses on most routes in the region.
Meanwhile, train drivers for Great Anglia will stage a second 24-hour strike on Saturday, halting more than 90% of services on the network. Only limited trains from Norwich, Colchester and Stansted airport to London Liverpool Street will run.
Members of the Aslef union have mostly so far stayed out of the wider rail strike action by the RMT that brought much of the railway across Britain to a halt for a week in late June, although drivers at numerous operators have been balloted for industrial action.
Talks were continuing between Network Rail, train operators and unions on issues including working reform, although there has been no reported breakthrough.
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail’s lead negotiator, said there had been “constructive meetings” throughout the week and he was “cautiously optimistic”. He told the BBC that Network Rail was still looking to make the planned 1,800 job cuts through voluntary redundancies and “the negotiations give me hope to think that is achievable”.
Members of the TSSA union at Avanti West Coast voted on Wednesday to strike, while the union continues to ballot managers at Network Rail for industrial action.
Labour shortages and inflation have increased industrial unrest across other sectors. Unite said there had been discussions with British Airways after 500 check-in staff at Heathrow voted to strike over pay. Salaries were cut by 10% during the pandemic and while BA has offered an equivalent bonus payment for this year, the union wants to see pay restored.
Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “This has never been about a pay rise – it is simply about recovering the wages of these workers to their pre-pandemic levels.”
Survation polling commissioned by the union said 73% of the public believed BA should give back the pay, which was cut after the airline “fired and rehired” its staff when flights were grounded for months due to Covid.
Meanwhile, additional strikes affecting Post Office collections and cash deliveries have been called this month. The Communication Workers Union announced on Friday that supply chain and admin workers would walk out on 14 July, three days after 1,500 staff at Crown branches of the Post Office stage a 24-hour strike.
The CWU said it was in response to a 3% pay offer after a pay freeze last year. Assistant secretary Andy Furey said: “ Everyone knows that the only solution is a fair pay rise that properly rewards members for their extraordinary efforts in serving the public and delivering a profitable Post Office, while also taking account of the extreme cost of living.”