Christmas Eve is approaching and the French are preparing for long journeys, often filled with pitfalls, as the SNCF strike hits the country. But rest assured: they are not the only ones. Across the Channel, Border Patrol officers launched an eight-day strike at six of Britain’s biggest airports on Friday to demand pay rises, raising fears of disruption over the Christmas break.
One thousand members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, employed by the Home Office, have started to walk out at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as well as Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester and at the port of Newhaven in the south of England. Heathrow and Gatwick airports assured that passport control had taken place without unusual delays in the morning thanks to the mobilization of soldiers.
Inflation is rising
This strike is scheduled to last until the end of the year with a suspension on December 27. Strikers are demanding pay rises as UK inflation hits almost 11%.
The country has been hit by a wave of social protest on a scale not seen in decades, with the government so far proving inflexible to the strikers’ demands. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday “to act in a fair and reasonable manner”. “I want to make sure we reduce inflation, which means being responsible when it comes to setting public sector wages,” he added, saying he was “really sad” and “disappointed” by the disruption caused by the strikes.
An action that is considered effective
For his part, the general secretary of the PCS union, Mark Serwotka, warned that there would be an “escalation” of the civil service strike in January if the government refuses to negotiate. “We believe that the border action will be very effective. So we hope the government will do the right thing, come around the negotiating table and put some money in,” he told the BBC. Before we threaten: “If this is not the case, (…) we will support this action until May and we will repeat a new vote if necessary”.
This border police strike “is part of the public service that I represent. The average annual salary is 23,000 pounds (26,150 euros). About 40,000 union members go to food banks. They are working poor,” the unionist said.
An extended strike
Post Office (Royal Mail) workers also went on strike, causing postal delays. Walkouts will also take place in rail transport. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the health sector was hit hard by a strike by nurses and then paramedics, a move widely supported by the public for a sector badly weakened by a decade of austerity and then the pandemic.
The nurses’ union, the Royal College of Nursing, announced on Friday further strikes on January 18 and 19 if the government does not open negotiations. On the other hand, the paramedics suspended their work day scheduled for December 28. On January 12, the strike extends to the London Underground, when staff on the Elizabeth line, inaugurated in May, stop work.