NHS, Royal Mail, rail: how will winter strikes affect the UK?

Disputes over pay and conditions are widespread, with workers across the country participating in industrial action

A winter of strike action over pay and conditions looms across sectors and services ranging from the NHS to transport.

Ballots are taking place in a range of sectors while talks in some areas have come too late to avoid disruption. In other cases, agreement over new deals appears to have more conclusively brought industrial action to an end.

NHS workers

The Royal College of Nursing, which represents close to half a million nurses, has announced the first UK-wide strike action in its 106-year history will start before Christmas.

Other health service workers could well follow suit. About 350,000 NHS employees from more than 250 health trusts and boards across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are being asked to vote for strike action over pay this winter, according to Unison.

40,000 members of the union in Scotland were balloted. Ambulance workers in Scotland and Northern Ireland have voted to go on strike, while balloting is taking place elsewhere.

Junior doctors are to ballot for industrial action in January after the government failed to meet a demand for pay restoration to 2008-9 levels by the end of September.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors across the UK, said on Wednesday that it would be providing guidance shortly on how it can support nursing staff and other NHS colleagues in dispute.

Royal Mail workers

Two 48-hour strikes by Royal Mail workers will take place on Saturday and Monday in a row over pay, jobs and conditions.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have staged a series of strikes, with the latest due to take place on two of the busiest online shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The union and Royal Mail have agreed to enter a period of “intense negotiations” in an attempt to resolve a long-running dispute.

University lecturers

At least 70,000 university staff are to go on strike later this month.

The University and College Union has announced its national strike will be held on 24, 25 and 30 November, with staff at 150 universities taking industrial action over pay, working conditions and pensions.


More than 1,000 Unite members at Transport for London (TfL) and London Underground (LU) take action on Thursday as part of a dispute about pensions, pay and jobs.

Other strike action on the rail network this week has been cancelled, but there has been disruption to services, while future developments will be dependent on talks between rail companies and unions.

The RMT union has said it will now enter “a period of intensive negotiations” with Network Rail and train operators but warned it could take action during the next six months to secure a deal.

Environmental workers

Trade unions are balloting Environment Agency (EA) officials on taking industrial action after a pay offer below inflation was rejected.

A strike ballot of several thousand EA employees across England – including river inspectors, flood forecasting officers, coastal risk management officers, sewage plant attendants and staff maintaining the Thames Barrier – closes this week.

Prospect, a union representing professionals such as scientists and engineers, will be balloting EA members from next Wednesday for one month.

The start of three weeks of strike action by refuse workers in the borough of Waverley, Surrey, was announced last week by the GMB union. The workers, who are employed by the council’s waste contractor, rejected a pay deal.

Airport workers

Hundreds of Heathrow workers will go on strike for three days this month, potentially disrupting travel plans for football fans wanting to fly to the World Cup in Qatar.

The Unite union said 700 workers involved in ground handling, airside transport and cargo at Europe’s busiest airport were to go on strike from the early hours of 18 November to the early hours of 21 November over pay demands.

Dock workers

A planned strike by dock workers at the Port of Liverpool, one of the UK’s biggest, has been called off after a pay deal was reached.

Nearly 600 members of the Unite union at the port, which is owned by Peel Ports, had taken part in industrial action and were due to strike on 14 November.

Other disputes

Members of Unite at Arrow XL, which undertakes deliveries for retailers including Amazon, are on strike each Monday until Christmas Eve.

The union represents 350 workers at Arrow, which describes itself as the UK’s leading two-person delivery company.

HGV drivers and shunters at a Müller factory in Gloucestershire, which provides milk and other dairy products to Marks & Spencer as well as Waitrose, are on strike in a dispute over rota changes.

In London, security guards at New Covent Garden have been on strike for a week over pay.


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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