Wave of strike action hits Royal Mail, universities, and schools

ITV News' Stacey Foster breaks down why various industries have taken part in strike action

Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and teachers went on strike on Thursday as industrial unrest continues to spread across the country in disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

Picket lines are being mounted outside postal delivery and sorting offices, universities and schools as unions edge closer to co-ordinated industrial action. It is shaping up to be one of the biggest walkouts of the year.

Talks have been held between leaders of unions involved in the disputes with the aim of taking joint action, such as holding strikes on the same day.

Meanwhile, Mick Lynch, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, met with Transport Secretary Mark Harper ahead of a fresh round of train strikes set to cripple services across the country over the festive period.

University lecturers

Around 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU) are striking on Thursday and Friday, and again on November 30, in a dispute over pay, pensions and contracts.

It is the biggest strike of its kind, affecting an estimated 2.5 million students, with the union warning of escalated action in the new year if the row is not resolved. Pickets are expected at 150 universities.

The union says lecturers and other academic staff have suffered a decade of below inflation pay rises, with a 3% increase announced in the summer.

Chloe Field, National Union of Students vice president for higher education, said: “Students stand in solidarity with university staff going on strike.

“We have always been clear that staff working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and for more than a decade both have come under attack from a sector that puts profits above education.”

Around 100 people stood in a picket line outside the main entrance to the University of Manchester on Thursday, with more picket lines dotted around the entrances of other buildings on the campus.

David Swanson, branch president of the University and College Union at the university, said: “We have a large amount of issues in higher education. Pay has fallen by something like 25% in the last 12 years.

"There’s a large amount of job insecurity, 50% of staff are on fixed term contracts. We have huge problems with workload. We are not prepared to be taken for mugs any more.”

Previously commenting on the strike action, Raj Jethwa, UCEA’s Chief Executive said that strike threats do not support students or staff, with many universities already battling to maintain staffing levels.

"All institutions face significant cost increases, with most enduring falling income in real terms," he said, adding that last year's pay award included an uplift of up to 9% for those on the lowest pay.

"HE institutions want to do more for their valuable staff, but any increase in pay puts jobs at risk."

Protestors and members of the UCU during their rally in Glasgow, at the start of their 10 days of industrial action in February. Credit: PA

Royal Mail

Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) at the Royal Mail are also striking on Thursday and on Black Friday, one of the busiest days of the year for delivery companies.

A series of strikes is planned in December, including Christmas Eve, in one of the longest-running disputes of a year dominated by stoppages.

The CWU said Royal Mail's proposals to alter the way the postal system worked would turn it into "a gig economy-style parcel courier, reliant on casual labour".

Postal workers on the picket line at the Kilburn Delivery Office in north west London. Credit: PA

The CWU said the strike dates are: November 24, 25 and 30, and December 1, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24.

Royal Mail says it has made its “best and final offer” aimed at resolving the dispute, including “extensive improvements” made during negotiations with the CWU, such as an enhanced pay deal of up to 9% over 18 months, offering to develop a new profit share scheme for employees, and making voluntary redundancy terms more generous.

Speaking at a picket in Camden, north London, Dave Ward, the CWU General Secretary, said on Thursday morning that Royal Mail is subjecting its workers to a “psychological attack”.

Dave Ward speaks to the media on the picket line at the Camden Town Delivery Office in north west London. Credit: PA


Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) walked out on Thursday in the first national strike over pay for almost 40 years.

A last-ditch offer made on Tuesday in a bid to avert strike action would see the lowest paid staff receive a 6.85% increase, with most getting 5%.

That was rejected by the EIS, and its general secretary Andrea Bradley branded it an “inept rehash” of the offer made earlier this year.

The EIS represents the vast majority of the country's teachers, meaning its actions are closing almost all primary, secondary and additional support needs schools.

Every school on Scotland’s mainland closed on Thursday as members of the EIS union took strike action in the pay dispute. The EIS has not ruled out further strikes in December.

Members of the EIS join teachers at a rally outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in a protest over pay. Credit: PA

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville warned the Scottish Government’s budget is under “extreme pressure” and the 10% rise demanded is “unaffordable” after a last-ditch offer was made in a bid to avert the strike.

The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA), a second Scottish teachers' union, is planning to strike on December 7 and 8. The union said its salaries and conditions of service committee unanimously rejected the latest offer.

Under the rejected pay offer, teachers earning under £40,107 would have been given an increase of £1,926 – 6.85% for those on the lowest salaries – while the highest earners would get 5%.

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