Explainer

How much strike action can we expect from workers this summer?

Unions across the public sector are considering strike action. Credit: PA

Britain hasn't seen a general strike - where all or almost all sectors strike collectively - since 1926, but there is a spiralling cost-of-living crisis and workers across the UK are struggling to make ends meet on often stagnant wages.

More strikes began this week affecting the criminal justice system, while Post Office and BT workers voted to hold industrial action.

They join a growing list of discontented industries, which is only getting longer.

Here's a look at the sectors either taking up or considering strike action in the coming weeks.

  • British Airways

British Airways workers based at Heathrow will strike in a dispute over pay after members of the GMB and Unite backed action.

Airline workers, including check-in staff, will now decide on walkout dates, which the unions said were likely to be held during the peak summer holiday period.

BA have said they are "extremely disappointed" with the result and argued their offer of a 10% one-off payment is fair given recent losses of £4 billion.

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “With grim predictability, holidaymakers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways.

“BA have tried to offer our members crumbs from the table in the form of a 10% one-off bonus payment, but this doesn’t cut the mustard.

“Our members need to be reinstated the 10% they had stolen from them last year with full back pay and the 10% bonus which other colleagues have been paid.


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“GMB members at Heathrow have suffered untold abuse as they deal with the travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures.

“At the same time, they’ve had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy. What did BA think was going to happen?"

  • Teachers

There are fears teachers may take part in walkouts over pay conditions, with the general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), Mary Bousted, refusing to rule out action.


How likely is it that teachers will also take strike action?


She told ITV's Peston show the union has "lost faith in the pay review body" and said the government must "hear the anger."

"The government proposes for teachers a 3% (pay rise) and we'll get somewhere around that, it's completely inadequate," she said.

"So we've lost faith in the pay review body, we want direct negotiations with the government, we don't want these strikes, but we want to be listened to and we want to be heard.

"And that's not just for teachers. Let me just emphasise this. If you lose your teachers, your standard of education goes through the floor. That's the danger we're in now."

  • Nurses

Strike action could also impact the NHS as Unison, which represents workers across the health service, warned staff would leave if they did not receive a fair pay increase.

NHS nurses backed strikes in a vote in December 2021 but failed to secure the 50% turnout required before industrial action can take place.

Rising inflation and restraint on public sector pay has sparked fears that another ballot could be more successful, leading to a walkout among NHS staff.

Christina McAnea, Unison general secretary, said: “The government has a simple choice, either it makes a sensible pay award, investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients, or it risks a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.”

Chair of the NHS Confederation Victor Adebowale warned a real-terms pay rise for the lowest paid NHS staff was needed to avoid “a worsening of the NHS workforce crisis.”

  • Barristers

Barristers in England and Wales have begun strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Some crown courts across the two nations have been running limited services, with criminal trials and other cases postponed or rescheduled from Monday June 27, the first day of a walkout by thousands of lawyers.

The strike action is intended to last for four weeks, beginning with walkouts on Monday June 27 and Tuesday June 28, increasing by one day each week until a five-day strike from Monday July 18 to Friday July 22.

That makes for a total of 14 days of strike action.

Barristers on picket lines accused the government of not listening to their concerns about the criminal justice system, and are angry that a proposed pay rise of 15% would not kick in immediately or apply to backlogged cases.

Criminal barristers from the CBA outside Manchester Crown Court. Credit: PA

The Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents barristers in England and Wales, said 300 barristers have left the profession over the past five years.

What's more, the CBA they say they have suffered an average decrease in real earnings of 28% since 2006 and juniors in their first three years earn a median income of £12,200 - below minimum wage.

Almost 40% of junior criminal barristers left the profession in one year, according to the group, as hundreds struggle with long hours and low pay.

  • Post Office workers

Post Office workers are to stage a fresh one-day strike in a dispute over pay.

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) at more than 100 Crown Post Offices – the larger branches often sited on high streets – will walk out on July 11.

The Crown Post Offices will close for one day, as workers strike against a massive real-terms pay cut.

The union said its members had rejected a pay offer it said was worth 3% with effect from April and a £500 lump sum, which the CWU said was well below inflation.

It will be the third national strike by Post Office workers this year.

More than 100 post offices are to be closed on 11 July when workers strike over pay. Credit: PA

CWU assistant secretary Andy Furey said: “No worker wants to be in this situation, but Post Office bosses can’t be surprised that callous decisions are challenged by our members.

“This dispute is about dignity and respect for hard-working employees – essential public servants who, as key workers, provided unprecedented customer service during the pandemic.

“Our members feel betrayed and will not tolerate their living standards being smashed by people in charge of a public service that due to our members’ efforts made tens of millions of pounds in annual profits.

“There is more than enough money for a reasonable pay rise – implementing this pay cut is a management choice, not a necessity.”

A Post Office spokesperson said: “We want to assure our customers that the vast majority of our 11,500 branches are unaffected by the CWU decision to strike on July 11 and will be open throughout the day.

“There are 114 branches, typically in city centres, that are directly managed by Post Office and on previous strike days over a third have opened as usual.

“We’re disappointed that the CWU have made the decision to strike but remain hopeful that we can reach a pay agreement soon.”

  • BT workers

BT workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strikes in a dispute over pay, which could affect customers having broadband services installed or getting faults fixed.

CWU General secretary Dave Ward said BT now faced its first national strike since it was privatised in the 1980s.

Mr Ward said he expected BT to offer a "significantly improved" pay rise by the first week of July or strike dates will be set.

In April, BT gave around 58,000 workers a £1,500 pay rise. But the CWU said this offer amounted to a “relative pay cut”, given rampant inflation.

Will there be more rail strikes?

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union leader has hinted at the prospect of further strikes if a settlement is not reached on the industrial dispute, as thousands of railway workers stage a second day of walkouts after talks failed.

Mick Lynch, who says the union is working with Network Rail and other operators on solving the dispute over pay, jobs and conditions, said the RMT will review its options.

"We will listen to the stuff that we have heard from the companies, and we will plan the next stage of our campaign and that will include industrial action if we do not get a negotiated settlement," Mr Lynch told ITV News during the week of strikes.

He described the negotiations as being "difficult", with the companies adding "more things on the table" - such as lowering pay rates and making staff work more night shifts - which complicate the talks.