The UK faces a period of mass disruption with hundreds of thousands of workers across the country set to strike across industries in the coming weeks in disputes over pay, pensions, jobs and conditions.
Rail staff, nurses, civil servants, bus drivers and postal workers are among those planning to walk out in the weeks before Christmas, with industrial action expected to continue into 2023.
Trade unions have been calling for better pay for their members amid the cost of living crisis, with inflation now at a 40-year high of 11.1 per cent.
Here are all the industries set to be affected around the festive period, and how services will be hit.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) has announced further strike action over the festive period, including on Christmas Eve.
It comes after Network Rail made its latest offer, which the union is urging its members to reject.
The new strike dates are likely to hamper people’s Christmas travel plans, and come in addition to four planned days of action next week, and another four in January.
Staff at Network Rail represented by the RMT are set to walk out on Saturday 24 December at 6pm. They will remain on strike until 6am on Tuesday 27 December.
This strike involves workers who maintain railways, such as signallers and maintenance workers.
The RMT also represents staff at 14 rail companies, who are involved in a separate dispute. The union has called action that will see more than 40,000 rail workers walk out on the following dates in December:
- Tuesday 13 December
- Wednesday 14 December
- Friday 16 December
- Saturday 17 December
There will be further action on the following dates in January 2023:
- Tuesday 3 January
- Wednesday 4 January
- Friday 6 January
- Saturday 7 January
Additionally, there will be an overtime ban across the railways from 18 December until 2 January, which will affect the number of services that can run.
The strikes will affect Network Rail and 14 major operators. Significant disruption can be expected across the country, with 80 per cent of services likely to be cancelled on strike days.
There will also be a knock-on effect on the days following strike action.
National Rail said: “The rail industry is working hard to minimise the effect that this will have on services but it is inevitable that services will be cancelled or severely disrupted. It is likely that there will be a very limited service on these days with no trains at all on some routes.”
National Rail will update its journey planner closer to the time, advising customers of how services will be affected.
There are two regional strikes planned in December. Staff at Avanti West Coast will strike on Sunday 11 and Monday 12 December. Workers at East Midlands Railway will walk out on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 December.
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), meanwhile, has announced it is calling off strikes planned for December and is putting an offer to its members.
Union members had been due to strike on 17 December and take other forms of industrial action from 13 December.
Royal Mail strikes
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have held a series of walkouts in recent months, which Royal Mail claims have cost it £100m.
Workers went on strike over Black Friday, one of the year’s busiest shopping dates, and also on Wednesday 30 November and Thursday 1 December.
Royal Mail staff are set to walk out again on the following dates:
- Friday 9 December
- Sunday 11 December
- Wednesday 14 December
- Thursday 15 December
- Friday 23 December
- Saturday 24 December
Despite “well-developed contingency plans”, Royal Mail has acknowledged that these “cannot fully replace the daily efforts of its frontline workforce”, with significant disruption on strike dates.
The most significant effect is that Royal Mail will not be delivering any letters or parcels on these days, except those sent by special delivery.
Royal Mail has promised to “prioritise the delivery of Covid test kits and medical prescriptions wherever possible” when strikes are taking place, alongside other Tracked24 parcels.
Most post offices are expected to be open on the dates walkouts are taking place, although a few will be affected by the CWU action.
But any items posted in postboxes or post offices the day before, during or following strike dates are likely to be subject to delays.
Royal Mail, which has a full, in-depth list of FAQs which you can find here, advises its customers to:
- Post items as early as possible in advance of the strike dates
- Continue to post items at post boxes or post offices, but be aware collections will be less frequent on days when strike action is taking place
Postal deliveries – and collections from businesses, post offices and post boxes – should resume the day after each strike takes place.
Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will stage the first national strike in the history of the Royal College of Nursing in December.
Up to 100,000 members will walk out at 65 NHS organisations on 15 and 20 December for 12 hours at a time. The strikes will take place between 8am and 8pm on both days.
Maternity services and A&E patients are among those that will face disruption when the nurses walk out, trust leaders have warned. Sick babies as well as cancer and dialysis patients will be among those “protected” from the action.
Nurses are calling for a rise in pay of 5 per cent above inflation, as well as better working conditions amid a huge shortfall in nursing staff across the country.
Ambulance staff across most of England and Wales will strike on Wednesday 21 December in a dispute over pay. The action has been organised by the three main ambulance unions; Unison, GMB and Unite.
There will be another walkout involving just staff represented by GMB – around half of the total, on Wednesday 28 December.
The walkouts will involve paramedics, as well as control room staff and support workers, though life-threatening calls will still be responded to.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay said there was “still a question” over whether ambulance services will cover all emergency callouts during the strikes.
He said officials plan to meet on Thursday to discuss coverage of category two callouts – which cover heart attacks, strokes, epilepsy and burns. But he said “the indication from the trade unions” is that conditions like heart attacks will be covered.
He told Times Radio: “We’ve got further talks with the officials tomorrow on what are called the derogations – which bits of the service that they will offer. They’ve said that they will continue to offer life-threatening service, so that’s the cat ones.
“There’s a question in terms of whether they will cover all the cat twos – those are the emergency responses to things like heart attacks and stroke – so it is hugely important that those are also covered.”
Road worker strikes
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) who are employees of National Highways, which operates and maintains roads in England, will walk out from Friday 16 December to Saturday 7 January.
Traffic officers will help keep the roads moving and users safe through planning and delivering schemes as well as providing key safety services such as rolling road blocks, smart motorways and lane closures.
The first road strikes will take place on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 December in the North West and North East, as well as Yorkshire.
There will be walkouts on Thursday 22 to Saturday 24 December in London and the South East, and on Friday 30 and Saturday 31 December in the West Midlands and South West.
A strike on Tuesday 3 and Wednesday 4 January will affect all areas of the country and walkouts will take place on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 January in the East Midlands and eastern England.
Ground handlers employed by a private contractor at Heathrow Airport are to strike in a row over pay. About 350 members of Unite working for Menzies will walk out for 72 hours from 4am on Friday 16 December. The action will lead to some flight disruption, the union said.
Eurostar passengers could see their Christmas travel plans disrupted due to security staff striking over pay. Eurostar staff who are members of the RMT are set to walk out on:
- Friday 16 December
- Sunday 18 December
- Thursday 22 December
- Friday 23 December
More than 100 workers employed by facilities management company Mitie are expected to take part in the action. The RMT claimed the strikes will “severely affect Eurostar services and travel plans for people over the December period”.
A Eurostar spokesperson told i: “We are aware that negotiations between Mitie and the unions are ongoing. If there is any impact on services, we will update customers as soon as possible.”
Civil Service strikes
Around 100,000 civil servants have voted to strike in a dispute over pay, pensions and jobs. The PCS said action will start in mid-December and continue for a month.
The union said the strikes would reach “into every corner of public life”. Civil servants work for the Government. They are neutral and recruited on merit and are not political party workers. They typically remain in their jobs even if the country’s leadership changes.
Workers at the following departments voted for action:
- British Museum
- Cabinet Office
- Charity Commission
- Maritime & Coastguard Agency
- Scottish Public Services Ombudsman
- Natural Resources Wales
- Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service
- Independent Office for Police Conduct
- Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
- Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
- Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
- Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC)
- Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)
- Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)
- Audit Wales
- Department for Education
- Natural England
- Competition Service
- Gambling Commission
- Historic England
- Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
- Historic Environment Scotland
- Home Office
- Insolvency Service
- HM Land Registry
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra)
- Creative Scotland
- National Galleries of Scotland
- National Museums of Scotland
- National Audit Office
- National Lottery Heritage Fund
- Department for Transport
- National Library of Wales
- National Museums Liverpool
- Gangmasters & Labour Abuse Authority
- Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)
- Competition & Markets Authority
- Office for National Statistics & UKSA
- UK Intellectual Property Office
- Vehicle Certification Agency
- Planning Inspectorate
- National Archives
- Registers of Scotland
- Transport Focus
- Sports Grounds Safety Authority
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
- Equality & Human Rights Commission
- Scottish Enterprise
- Scottish Government
- Serious Fraud Office
- Skills Development Scotland
- The Council of the RFCAs
- Sport England
- Scotland’s Commission for Children & Young People
- RFCA West Midlands
- Scottish Courts & Tribunals Service
- Legal Aid Agency
- UK Research & Innovation (UKRI)
- Visit Scotland
- Government Legal Department
- Parole Board for England & Wales
- Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA)
- Wallace Collection
- Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament)
- Scottish Human Rights Commission
- Scottish Prison Service
- Scottish Parliament
- Student Loans Company
- Architecture & Design Scotland
- Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
- National Highways
- Westminster Foundation for Democracy
- Independent Living Fund Scotland
- Rural Payments Agency
- Defence, Science & Technology Laboratory
- Electoral Commission
- Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC)
- Security Industry Authority
- UK Space Agency
- Marine Management Organisation
- Youth Justice Board
- Local Government Boundary Commission for England
- Northern Ireland Office
- Prisons & Probation Ombudsman
- Wales Office
- Courts and Tribunals Judiciary
- Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority
- Children’s Commissioner for England
- Food Standards Scotland
- Crown Estate Scotland
- Risk Management Authority
- Local Democracy & Boundary Commission for Wales
- UK Debt Management Office
- Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS)
- Social Security Scotland
- Scottish Housing Regulator
- Revenue Scotland
- Department of International Trade
- Bord na Gaidhlig
- Forestry Commission England
- Scottish Forestry
- Leasehold Advisory Service
- Forestry and Land Scotland
- UKSV (Cabinet Office)
- Disclosure and Barring Service
- Veterinary Medicines Directorate
- Institute for Apprenticeships
- Office for Students (OfS)
- Transport Scotland
- Accountant in Bankruptcy
- Disclosure Scotland
- Education Scotland
- Office for the Scottish Charity Regulator
- Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA)
- National Records of Scotland
- South of Scotland Enterprise
- Trade Remedies Authority
- UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)
- Office for Health Improvement & Disparities (OHID)
Some workers will take action for the entire month, while others will walk out for shorter periods. The Army will be called in to manage some areas, such as replacing striking Border Force workers.
The union is calling for a 10 per cent pay rise, better pensions, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms.