London braces as Tube drivers, teachers, and junior doctors to strike
ondoners are braced for major disruption on Wednesday as planned walkouts by Underground workers and teachers bring chaos to the Tube network and close schools.
More than 130,000 civil servants, junior doctors and university lecturers are also set to strike in what is expected to be the biggest wave of walkouts since last year.
Public sector workers have deliberately aligned strike action with the Government’s Spring Budget announcement, which will be made on Wednesday by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
Members of several trade unions will take action, mounting hundreds of picket lines across the country amid continuing anger over issues including pay, jobs, pensions and conditions.
Transport for London (TfL) is expecting little to no service across the Underground network on Wednesday and people may have to queue to use the Elizabeth Line or London Overground.
Part of the Elizabeth Line between Paddington and Abbey Wood/Stratford will also be affected before 7.30am or after 10.30pm.
Disruption is expected to last into Thursday morning – when national rail strikes begin – as about 10,000 members of Aslef and the RMT unions walk out in a long-running dispute over pensions and working conditions.
Despite Underground chiefs making an 11th hour plea to unions to call off the strike, RMT leader Mick Lynch confirmed strikes are going ahead and called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan to support their calls.
In a letter to the London mayor, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “As you know, at this moment, London Underground managers are imposing new rosters across our Tube stations which are based on cutting 600 station staff jobs.
“In January, I wrote to you raising my serious concerns about the safety consequences of these cuts. Because they are now so short-staffed, managers appear to be mis-using waivers in order to override agreed minimum safe staffing levels at Tube stations.
“This means that stations are now opening with too few or, in some cases, no staff. I asked for a moratorium on these station staff cuts while an investigation took place, yet managers are proceeding with the use of the new rosters.”
TfL claims there were “no proposals” to change workers’ pension scheme or staff contracts, but the RMT said “this isn’t quite a lie, but is well on its way to being one”.
Teachers strike to close schools
Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of teachers across England are expected to strike on Wednesday and Thursday in a long-running pay dispute.
Many schools will be forced to restrict access to certain year groups or fully close.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan invited the National Education Union (NEU) to formal talks on teachers’ pay three weeks ago on the condition that the union’s planned strikes were cancelled.
But the NEU has refused to suspend strike action in England until Ms Keegan makes a pay offer that could end the dispute.
In an open letter to parents on Tuesday, Ms Keegan said: “The single best thing the NEU could do for both its members and for children and young people would be to sit down and talk about pay.”
But Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “Gillian Keegan’s digging in of heels, and refusal to engage through Acas, has meant that England yet again lags behind other countries.”
Civil servants are calling for a “fair pay rise” as they too take industrial action on Wednesday.
Civil Service walkout
More than 130 Government departments, agencies and sites – including the British Museum and British Library, as well as the Border Force – will be affected.
Travellers arriving in the UK on Wednesday are warned to expect long queues as Border Force staff walkout.
The government said it has “undertaken extensive planning to minimise disruption, reduce queues and keep our border safe ahead of Border Force strike action”, with hundreds of people including military personnel having been trained to carry out border checks, “detect harmful goods and safeguard vulnerable individuals”.
Public and Commercial Services union general secretary Mark Serwotka warned the action is just the start of strikes that could last until the end of the year.
He said: “On Budget Day we’re asking Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to give our hard-working members a fair pay rise.
“We’ve been given a 2 per cent pay rise when food inflation was 16 per cent last week. 40,000 civil servants use food banks and 45,000 claim in-work benefits because they’re so poor.”
Meanwhile junior doctors in the British Medical Association will continue with a three-day stoppage they launched on Monday over pay.
NHS Providers chief executive Sir Julian Hartley said: “Senior doctors are stepping into the breach but it isn’t business as usual. For hospital patients that means it’s taking longer for admissions and the discharge process is also slower.
“Ambulance handover delays are up too.”
Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “Our members in the public sector have seen their incomes decline by up to 26 per cent over the past 13 years and their work taken for granted – they have had enough.”
Members of the National Union of Journalists working at BBC Local across England will stage a 24-hour strike in a row over programme cuts.