Highway worker strike could bring chaos to roads over Christmas

Walkout coincides with disruption to rail and air travel due to industrial action

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Friday 02 December 2022 16:13 GMT
Vehicles drive through fog on the M3 near Old Basing in Hampshire on Friday
Vehicles drive through fog on the M3 near Old Basing in Hampshire on Friday (PA)

Unions have announced 12 days of strikes by highway workers which could bring chaos to the roads over the busy Christmas and New Year period.

The industrial action coincides with planned rail strikes expected to drive millions more people onto the roads as they travel to be with family and friends for the festive season.

And disruption is also expected to flights from Heathrow by a 72-hour strike announced today by ground handlers, due to begin on 16 December.

The PCS union announced today that National Highways employees, who plan, design, build, operate and maintain the country’s roads, will take part in a series of staggered strikes from 16 December to 7 January.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the walkout over pay could bring the country’s roads to a standstill.

“We know our members’ action could inconvenience travellers who plan to visit their relatives over the festive period, but our members have been placed in this situation by a government that won’t listen to its own workforce,” he said. 

“With the serious cost-of-living crisis they deserve to be paid properly for the important work they do, keeping our roads running safe and free.

“The government is in the driving seat here – it’s in a position to stop these strikes by putting money on the table.”

PCS members at 124 government departments and other public bodies have voted for strike action over demands for a 10 per cent pay rise and job security.

The union has already announced planned industrial action by driving instructors and workers at the Rural Payments Agency, and further strike dates at departments including the Home Office are to be set out over the coming weeks.

Separately, Unite announced that 350 baggage handlers employed by private contractor Menzies at Heathrow airport are to stage a 72-hour walkout next weekend.

General secretary Sharon Graham said flight disruption could result by the dispute over a real-terms pay cut for its members.

“This is a highly lucrative company, which has made a fair pay offer to one group of its workers but isn’t prepared to make a similar offer to its ground handlers,” she said.

A Heathrow spokesman said: “We are aware of industrial action proposed by Menzies colleagues from 16-18 December.

“We encourage airport partners who would be affected to continue with their contingency planning and we will support them to minimise the impact on passengers, should the strike go ahead.”

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