Saturday June 15, 2024

UK unions continue strikes amid ongoing pay disputes

Published : 07 Dec 2023, 01:07

  DF News Desk
A passenger stands next to a notice of strike in Waterloo Station in London, Britain, Sept. 1, 2023. File Photo: Xinhua.

Widespread industrial action in the United Kingdom (UK) continued into December with no sign of stopping amid disputes over pay, and the walkouts have disrupted travel plans and already strained public services, reported Xinhua.

Junior doctors in England will take further industrial action in late December and early January, and the six-day strike in January would be the longest in the history of the National Health Service (NHS), the British Medical Association (BMA) said on Tuesday.

"After five weeks of intense talks, the government was unable to present a credible offer on pay by the deadline," BMA Junior Doctors Committee co-chairs Robert Laurenson and Vivek Trivedi said in a statement, noting that they "will be ready and willing any time the government wants to talk."

Junior doctors' pay has been cut by more than a quarter since 2008, according to the BMA. Doctors were offered an additional 3 percent pay raise after recent talks, but the BMA said it would be unevenly spread across doctors' grades so it would still amount to pay cuts for many doctors this year.

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins said on social media that the new strikes were "disappointing" and "will result in more disruption for patients and extra pressure on NHS services and staff as we enter a busy winter period, risking patient safety."

"If the Junior Doctors Committee calls off their strikes, we will immediately look to come back to the table to continue negotiations," Atkins added.

This week, rail passengers also face travel disruptions as the UK's train drivers' union ASLEF has decided on further walkouts.

"We are determined to win this dispute," Mick Whelan, ASLEF's general secretary, said in a statement, "and get a significant pay rise for train drivers who have not had an increase since 2019, while the cost of living, in that time, has soared."

A spokesperson for Rail Delivery Group, representing train operators, said in response that the ASLEF strikes "continue to result in huge disruption for our customers, staff and the hospitality industry," and "there could be more strikes in 2024."

The planned ASLEF strikes and the overtime ban will cost the hospitality sector at least half a billion British pounds (630 million U.S. dollars) in lost sales, bringing the total impact of the disruption to over 4 billion pounds, the trade body UKHospitality estimated.

Widespread strikes started in the summer of 2022 amid disputes over pay and working conditions. Latest official figures showed that 229,000 working days were lost because of labor disputes across the UK in September 2023, and the majority of the strikes were in the health and social work, and education sectors.