UK strikes: What teachers, Royal Mail and NHS unions have said about possible walkouts

·Breaking News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·6-min read
Unison members and members of the public take part in a TUC national demonstration at Parliament Square in central London to demand action on the cost of living, a new deal for working people and a pay rise for all workers. Picture date: Saturday June 18, 2022.
Unison members and members of the public take part in a TUC national demonstration at Parliament Square in central London to demand action on the cost of living. (PA)

Thousands of teachers, NHS staff and Royal Mail workers could join rail employees in striking if pay rises are not introduced in line with inflation, union bosses have warned.

The UK is currently bracing itself for days of disruption as the biggest rail strike in over 30 years is set to go ahead.

Strikes are planned on most major lines on Tuesday 21 June, Thursday 23 June and Saturday 25 June.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has called for a 7% pay rise to keep up with the increased cost of living, but despite last-minute talks continuing between unions and rail bosses, travellers have been warned they will likely face "misery."

The action comes as workers face the highest inflation levels in 40 years, after it hit 9% at the end of May.

Further financial difficulties are predicted after the Bank of England said inflation was set to hit 11% in the autumn as it hiked interest rates to 1.25% – the fifth successive rise.

Defending the refusal to increase pay, the chief secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke said public sector workers cannot expect “inflation-busting pay increases” that risk fuelling the “evil of inflation” further.

As rail workers prepare to strike, what have union bosses in other industries said about possible industrial action?

Read more: UK minister warns public workers to brace for real-term pay cuts amid rail strikes

Watch: Not too late to call off rail strikes, says Boris Johnson

Teaching unions: 'Prepared to ballot members if pay rise not offered'

Two key teaching unions are considering balloting members over strike action if a significant pay increase is not offered.

The National Education Union (NEU) and NASUWT have said they will be balloting members about strike action if the government does not increase their pay.

The NEU said a letter will be sent to Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Wednesday saying the union is prepared to ballot its 450,000 members if a pay rise more in line with inflation is not offered.

However, a ballot will not be called until Zahawi responds to the conclusions of the School Teachers’ Review Body report, which is expected to be released at the end of the school year.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi during a visit with the President of Portugal Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa to Imperial College London to meet some of Imperial's Portuguese staff and students and visit science labs including the Data Observatory and ocean wave basin. Picture date: Saturday June 11, 2022.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi will respond to the conclusions of the School Teachers’ Review Body report. (PA)

The union said an initial indicative ballot would be taken, followed by a formal ballot if the first result suggests members support strike action.

NASUWT leaders have also called for a 12% pay increase for teachers this year, and said it will ballot members in England, Wales and Scotland for industrial action if its demands are not met.

A pay award for 2022/23 is due in November.

Two in three teachers are questioning whether to change careers due to wages, and the value of teachers’ pay has dropped by 20%, NASUWT said.

Members of the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT, march through Brighton, East Sussex, as teachers, from four regions of England - the North East and Cumbria, the South West, South East and London, stage a fresh wave of strikes in an ongoing row over pay, pensions and working conditions.
Members of the National Union of Teachers and the NASUWT, march through Brighton, East Sussex. (PA)

NHS unions: 'The government has a simple choice'

Unison has issued a warning to the government that there could be industrial action brought in hospitals if pay rises are not brought closer to inflation.

“The government has a simple choice,” Unison's general secretary Christina McAnea said.

“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.”

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “NHS staff received a 3 per cent pay rise last year, increasing nurses’ pay by £1,000 on average despite a public sector pay freeze, and we are giving NHS workers another pay rise this year.

“No decisions have been made and we will carefully consider the recommendations from the independent pay review bodies.”

Protesters outside St Thomas' Hospital in London, as thousands of junior doctors have begun the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS after the Health Secretary said the Government would not be
Protesters outside St Thomas' Hospital in London, as thousands of junior doctors went on the first all-out strike in the history of the NHS in 2016. (PA)

Royal Mail unions

Over 100,000 Royal Mail workers are set to vote on whether to take industrial action in the coming months.

Staff could go on strike over a disagreement over their pay when they are balloted on the decision.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) have accused bosses at Royal Mail of being “P&O in sheep’s clothing”, referring to the ferry company which sacked 800 of their staff in March.

On Wednesday the privatised mail company announced that workers would be getting a 2% pay rise backdated to April - a figure which was called a "ridiculous strategic decision" by the postal deputy general secretary, Terry Pullinger.

Royal Mail staff gather outside the main delivery office in Stockport on the second day of a two day nationwide strike.
The Communication Workers Union (CWU) have accused bosses at Royal Mail of being “P&O in sheep’s clothing”. (PA)

The Union criticised the move as falling massively short of what they needed, with Pullinger adding: “It is an absolute outrage - 2% is nowhere near acceptable."

Royal Mail's chief executive Simon Thompsons said a deal with CWU had not been achieved “despite our best efforts”.

He added that the union and the mail giant had been holding talks which had “made little progress.”

Thompson added: “I am also disappointed that the CWU has already chosen to ballot when we know how damaging the threat of industrial action is to our business.”

File photo dated 25/01/18 of a postman delivering letters in Woking, Surrey, as Royal Mail has said it will need to hike prices and slash costs to offset soaring inflation amid an
Over 100,000 Royal Mail workers are set to vote on whether to take industrial action in the coming months. (PA)

Barristers: Several days of walkouts

It was announced on Monday that barristers have voted to go on strike in a row over legal aid funding.

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said several days of court walkouts will begin from next week.

The promised industrial action, announced on Monday following a ballot of members, comes at a time of significant backlogs across the court system.

The CBA said around 81.5% of the more than 2,000 members to respond supported industrial action.

The strike action is intended to last for four weeks, beginning with walkouts on Monday and Tuesday June 27 and 28, increasing by one day each week until a five-day strike from Monday July 18 to Friday July 22.

It means cases at which barristers are required will likely have to be postponed, including crown court trials.

Barristers are expected to strike on picket lines outside court, including at The Old Bailey in London and at crown courts in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds and Manchester.

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