Facing record inflation, British unions ready to strike over pay

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Nov. 10 (UPI) — Roughly 100,000 British Public and Commercial Services Union members have voted to authorize strike action as public workers seek higher pay and improved working conditions. Rail, teacher and nursing unions have also approved strikes.

The civil service workers want 10% pay increases, improved pensions, more job security and no cuts in redundancy, or unemployment pay, according to the union.

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“The PCS national executive committee (NEC) has now sent a letter to the Cabinet Office demanding meaningful negotiations on our claim,” the union said in a statement. “Unless substantial proposals are received from the government the NEC will agree to a program of industrial action at its meeting on Friday, Nov. 18.”

The strike vote comes as British working families struggle to cope with high inflation. British public unions are angry about a government plan to cut jobless benefits pay.

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“Our members have spoken and if the government fails to listen to them, we’ll have no option than to launch a prolonged program of industrial action reaching into every corner of public life,” PCS General Secretary Mark Serwotka said in a statement.

The union’s actions are a response to the high cost of living crisis, job cuts and office closings, according to Serwotka. In addition to the civil service union, Britain’s railroad unions are pushing for higher pay in the face of record inflation.

The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen said in a statement that their train drivers will strike on Nov. 26.

“We regret that passengers will be inconvenienced for another day. We don’t want to be taking this action. Withdrawing our labor is always a last resort for a trade union,” ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan said in the statement. “They want drivers to take a real terms pay cut. With inflation now well into double figures, train drivers who kept Britain moving through the pandemic are now being expected to work just as hard this year as last year but for less. Most of these drivers have not had an increase in salary since 2019.”

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Talks to avert a strike broke down in June.

EIS, a teachers union in Scotland, announced Thursday that 96% of their members voted for strike action over pay.

“A move to strike action is always a last resort, but our members have become increasingly angry over their treatment by their employers and by the Scottish Government,” EIS General Secretary Andrea Bradley said in a statement. “The last pay offer, a sub-inflation 5%, was rejected by Scotland’s teachers almost three months ago. Since then, there has been no new offer made, despite a strong desire on the part of teachers for a fair deal to be struck.”

Bradley’s statement urged the Scottish government to really pay attention to teachers and make a greatly improved pay offer “if strike action starting this month is to be avoided.”

Nurses in Scotland represented by the Royal College of Nursing have also rejected a pay offer from the Scottish government.

“This is a defining moment in our history, and our fight will continue through strike action and beyond for as long as it takes to win justice for the nursing profession and our patients. Anger has become action — our members are saying enough is enough,” RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said in a statement.

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