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Strikes UK – live: Sunak ‘pathetic’ in trying to shift blame as schools hit by walkout

Teachers, train drivers, civil servants and university staff among professions taking action

Liam James
Wednesday 01 February 2023 12:42 GMT
All UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023

Rishi Sunak faced a testing Prime Minister’s Question time against a backdrop of Britain’s biggest strike day in more than a decade.

Sir Keir Starmer said the prime minister was “pathetic” for trying to blame Labour for the mass walkouts.

He told MPs: “After 13 years in power, trying to blame the Labour Party for his failure to sort out the strikes is rank pathetic. The Tory Party’s addiction to sleaze and scandal has done huge damage to this country and the cost to the public keeps adding up.”

Mr Sunak replied: “He can’t stand up to his union bosses, he can’t stand up for Britain’s schoolchildren today and he can’t stand up for the women in his party.”

Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards are among half a million workers walking out today, as union bosses accuse the government of frustrating efforts to reach compromise on pay deals.

Around 85 per cent of schools are either fully or partially closed by strike action today, while the bulk of Britain’s train network is offline.


Schools out: 200,000 teachers to strike in biggest shutdown for three decades

Parts of the country will effectively grind to a halt on “Walkout Wednesday” as around 200,000 teachers take part in their largest strike for three decades, closing classrooms in 85 per cent of schools (Kate Devlin writes).

In total, half a million teachers, university staff, train drivers, Border Force workers, civil servants and security guards are predicted to take part in a coordinated day of industrial action.

NHS patients and nursery children also risk being disproportionately affected as staff, many of them women, are forced to stay home to look after their own school-age pupils, experts have warned.

Most trains in England will not run, queues are predicted at airports and 600 military personnel are being drafted in to support public services.

More on this here.

Liam James1 February 2023 05:00

Department of Health ‘has missed deadline’ for NHS pay review body

The Department of Health and Social Care has missed the deadline for submitting evidence on next year’s pay award for more than a million NHS staff, MPs have been told (Ella Pickover writes).

Former health minister Steve Brine, who is now chair of the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, said he was “astonished” that the Department had missed the deadline. But the Treasury has submitted evidence, MPs were told.

Meanwhile, the chair of the NHS Pay Review Body said that the process by which the group advises the Government on remuneration for more than a million NHS staff “feels independent”.

Department of Health ‘has missed deadline’ for 23/24 pay review body

A former health minister said he is ‘astonished’ ministers are yet to submit evidence.

Liam James1 February 2023 04:00

Food banks and second-hand dancing shoes – the struggles that led to the strikes

Striking workers have told of the struggles that are forcing them to join walkouts on Wednesday – including the use of food banks and buying second-hand dancing shoes for their children.

Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions will walk out on Wednesday in disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

The PA news agency spoke to some workers from across the sectors, who have given their reasons for striking – whether it be to get better support for their children or simply to make ends meet.

Food banks and second-hand dancing shoes – the struggles that led to the strikes

Workers from across the various sectors taking part in Wednesday’s walkout have said this was the ‘bitter end’ of the dispute with the government.

PA1 February 2023 02:30

London Underground workers striking for safety

You would be forgiven for assuming all strikes taking place in Britain’s 21st century Winter of Discontent were all over pay concerns.

But staff on one London Underground line have an altogether different gripe with their employers: passenger safety.

Aslef workers on the Bakerloo line will walk out on Saturdays 4 and 11 over a TfL plan that they say will risk unaware passengers being rolled into train depots.

Currently, trains on the line are physically checked to make sure they are empty before the driver heads on to the sidings or a depot, but the union said management want to remove this safety check as part of a cost-cutting plan.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Underground, said: “Previous experience had shown that removing physical checks means that thousands of passengers are unwittingly taken into sidings or depots.

“We understand the pressure that London Underground is under to cut costs, but this cannot be at the expense of the safety of passengers and staff.”

Many Bakerloo line trains have been running 50 years (Getty)
Liam James1 February 2023 01:00

BBC journalist to take strike ballot

BBC journalists are to vote on industrial action in a dispute over planned changes to local radio programming.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said its members working for BBC England are being balloted over proposals to share local radio programming across the network.

The union said that, under original proposals, BBC local radio stations would share programmes with neighbouring stations after 2pm on weekdays and at weekends, which the NUJ said would lead to a loss of posts and journalists having to re-apply for their own jobs.

A compromise put forward by the BBC which the union said would have seen less sharing was rejected by 70 per cent of NUJ members.

The union said it now has no option but to move to a formal ballot.

Liam James1 February 2023 00:00

All the UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023

Joe Sommerlad maps out a month that will see firefighters, teachers, train drivers and ambulance workers alike walk out in rows over pay and conditions:

All the UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023

More disruption likely as pay disputes go unresolved and industrial action continues

Liam James31 January 2023 23:00

Two unions join for Environment Agency workers strike

Two unions representing Environment Agency workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.

Members of Unison and Prospect working in areas including river inspection, flood forecasting, coastal risk management and pollution control will walk out for 12 hours on 8 February.

The unions said that for 12 hours either side of the walkout, Environment Agency employees will also escalate their ongoing work-to-rule by withdrawing from incident response rotas.

Where there is a genuine threat to life or property from something like a major flood, officers will step in as emergency “life and limb cover” has been agreed with agency managers.

Environment Agency staff belonging to Unison took strike action earlier in January. Now their colleagues who are in Prospect will join them for the first joint strike.

Liam James31 January 2023 22:00

School closures subject to heads’ discretion

Teachers in England and Wales who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) will take part in walkouts on Wednesday which threaten disruption to more than 23,000 schools.

The walkouts, which could see more than 100,000 teachers go on strike, is the first of seven days of action planned by the NEU in February and March. Some schools are due to close their doors to all pupils on Wednesday as a result of the strikes, with children told to stay at home.

Other schools will be partially closed so they can prioritise children who would benefit most from in-person teaching, such as those sitting exams as well as vulnerable pupils and key workers’ children. In some schools, there may be little or no impact from strike action and they will remain open.

Headteachers will carry out risk assessments to work out whether their schools can open safely with reduced staffing numbers. The decision on whether to close fully or partially is down to individual headteachers.

Liam James31 January 2023 21:00

All the trains cancelled for strikes

Train drivers from the Aslef and RMT unions will strike tomorrow, taking the bulk of Britain’s rail network offline.

No trains will run on Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Heathrow Express, London Northwestern Railway, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, TransPennine Express, West Midlands Railway.

Other affected lines are:

  • Great Western Railway – An extremely limited service will operate, and only between 7.30am and 7.30pm. The only routes served by trains will be: Between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads; between Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff; between Reading and Basingstoke, Oxford and Redhill; between Swindon and Westbury; between Exeter St Davids and Exmouth and Paignton; between Plymouth and Gunnislake; and between Penzance and St Ives.
  • Greater Anglia – A very limited service will operate with one train per hour in each direction between London Liverpool Street and each of Norwich, Colchester, Cambridge and Southend Victoria. Services will start from 8am and finish earlier than usual. No other routes will be served by trains.
  • London North Eastern Railway – An extremely limited timetable will operate. It will run just five trains in each direction between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, with a handful of other services.
  • South Western Railway – The operator intends to run a full service on the mainland but there will be no trains on the Isle of Wight.
  • Stansted Express – One train per hour will run in each direction between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport.

Wednesday’s strike is over pay and working conditions. It will be followed by another walkout on Friday.

Liam James31 January 2023 20:00

Tens of thousands of teachers 'joined union for strike’

Tens of thousands more teachers have joined the UK’s largest education union to take part in strikes on Wednesday, a union boss has said.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said ministers should be concerned about the 40,000 new sign-ups to the union since the teacher strikes were announced a fortnight ago.

He said the new members, of which the vast majority are teachers, are joining the union “because they want to be part of the action”.

Mr Courtney told the PA news agency: “That’s a very big conscious decision to make, to join us at this moment. If I was the government, I’d be worried about that.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the NEU, said the union is expecting “lots of schools” to close in areas where the NEU has a large representation – like London. Downing Street has conceded that Wednesday’s mass strike action will be “very difficult” for the public.

Bousted talks to the press on Monday (PA)
Liam James31 January 2023 19:00

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