Are We Heading For A General Strike In All But Name?

RMT assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey, speaking at a protest outside the Department for Transport with striking rail cleaners.
RMT assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey, speaking at a protest outside the Department for Transport with striking rail cleaners.

RMT assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey, speaking at a protest outside the Department for Transport with striking rail cleaners.

Monday, December 12 promises to be a red letter day in the UK.

Remarkably, it is the only remaining day this month when there is not some kind of industrial action taking place.

On every other day until the end of the month, strikes are taking place by teachers, NHS workers, postal staff, rail workers or Border Force officials.

Further walkouts are due in the new year as the winter of discontent kicks in.

But while it is not officially a general strike, trade union bosses admit that they are working together to cause as much disruption as possible as they seek to win higher pay offers for their members.

Speaking on LBC last night, PWC general secretary Mark Serwotka – whose union represents thousands of civil servants – said: “We will see that the action now is going to escalate and there will be more and more people voting to strike in the new year.

“And I think it’s inevitable that as more and more unions take that decision, that we will work together far closer to ensure that we are cooperating and coordinating our action.”

I think the unions will co-ordinate and synchronise their power and their influence so that they can get a better deal for their people.

Mick Lynch, the high-profile boss of the RMT union, told Sky News this morning: “I don’t want a general strike, but I think the way things are going at the moment, with suppression of wages, the stresses and strains that many workers are suffering in the health service and education, I think the trade unions have got to maximise their leverage and it would be daft if they didn’t co-ordinate and synchronise their action.

“I don’t think there’ll be a general strike like in the way we traditionally look at it, but I think the unions will co-ordinate and synchronise their power and their influence so that they can get a better deal for their people.”

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There is only one day left this month when no strike action is taking place.
There is only one day left this month when no strike action is taking place.

There is only one day left this month when no strike action is taking place.

In response to the wave of industrial action, Rishi Sunak has said he is prepared to introduce “new tough laws” to prevent essential services like ambulance drivers from going on strike.

This morning, the prime minister’s spokesman rejected claims the government is trying to inflame the situation.

He said: “What we are looking to do is to keep people safe and keep the country moving. Those are our aims, we’re not looking to worsen our relations with any group.

“We believe we’ve acted reasonably when it comes to both agreeing the payoff as recommended by the independent boards and in facilitating the discussions we need to reach some sort of resolution.

“Given what we’re seeing and the need to protect people from inflation we must also go further and consider further powers to try and mitigate against some of the disruption.”

Nevertheless, without major concessions from either side of the increasingly-bitter dispute, the general-strike-in-all-but-name looks set to continue for months to come.

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