Sunday, February 5News For London

The next three weeks to the new year resemble an advent calendar of disruption

The next three weeks to the new year seem like an advent calendar of disruption, as nurses, transport workers, postal workers, baggage handlers, and others have scheduled strikes.

Credit: Mellina Shahrom

These are all kinds of strike disruptions that we can expect. This is largely about pay. As prices rise, wages are not, on the whole, keeping up and statistically, that gap is greater for the public sector.

Credit: Mellina Shahrom

This is what is happening this week. There will be four days of rail disruption as 40,000 workers walk out. And more than 100,000 Royal Mail workers will participate in two days of strike action this week.

As we are edging closer to Christmas, expect disruption to deliveries. Learner drivers are being urged to check if their practical driving test has been cancelled or rescheduled due to strike action by examiners.

This is really a staggering strike. It affects different regions at different times. Scotland and the Northeast of England will be feeling it this week.

And healthcare workers in Northern Ireland, including nurses, technicians and admin staff, have gone on strike this morning.

They rejected a payoff for last week because it was below the rates of inflation. And the Royal College of Nursing will begin its first strike in more than 100 years.

On Thursday, more than 100,000 nurses are taking part, demanding better pay. It is a challenging time for those working in the NHS and those aspiring towards a career in the NHS.

Why not just increase everyone’s pay? This morning, Steve Barclay reiterated the Health Secretary saying that if they gave every public sector worker a pay rise in line with inflation, he says it would cost an extra £28 billion, or £1000 per household.

“If everyone on the public sector were to get an increase in line with inflation, that would be costing £28 billion at a time when the Government has to get inflation under control because that is the biggest factor in terms of people’s cost of living.”

Steve Barclay

But researchers at the Institute of Fiscal Studies say those figures are too high. They say the Government was already budgeting a 3% pay rise so that the extra cost would be less. It would be 18 billion. That is the equivalence of just £640 for each UK household.

The argument from the Government says that by paying the NHS staff more, the money has to come from somewhere, and it would have an impact elsewhere in the NHS.

They also make the argument, and Downing Street in particular, very clear, that offering above inflation pay increases to public sector workers risks worsening inflation in the longer term.

The fact that they argue on this is really unaffordable and unreasonable at this point.

Nevertheless, Labour said it is unforgivable that ministers are not willing to discuss pay with nurses’ unions and others at this point, with those strikes looming and trade unions continuing to hold out, making, among other arguments, that their workers have had below inflation pay rises for many years, meaning that in real terms, their pay has gone down.

The people are angry because their pay packets are being eroded by inflation. However, people do not want to do anything to lock in high inflation. This is really hard, but do not expect a better pay deal for a boss anytime soon.