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Scrooged: UK unions take Christmas hostage as Sunak vows to take action against ‘unreasonable’ leaders


British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to be “tough” as members of several unions in the UK have gone on strike or announced plans for strikes in a number of industries threatening the holiday.

Sunak told Parliament he would “take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public” if “union leaders continue to be unreasonable.”

“My priority is to make sure that I keep people safe and minimize disruption to their lives, and I will do whatever it takes to do that,” Sunak said.

Postal workers, rail operators, ambulance drivers, Scottish teachers and nurses are among the various groups who went on strike in the biggest strike wave in Britain since 1989. The number includes more than 20,000 workers of ambulances who will go on strike on December 21, joining more than 115,000 Royal Mail postal workers who went on strike on Friday, with plans to continue their strike on December 14, 15, 23 and 24, according to BBC.

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Unions and employers have reached an impasse in negotiations over higher wages and a reduction in layoffs, or job cuts, as they face a higher cost of living. Inflation has pushed energy levels to their highest prices in decades, as many people struggle to stay warm during the winter.

Members of the Fire Union take part in a demonstration over a possible future strike related to a pay dispute, in London, on December 6, 2022.
(Reuters/Peter Nicholls)

The general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Mark Serwotka, told Reuters that the groups chose Christmas for their strikes as a “last resort” to “ensure that the action we are calling for is noticed.”

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Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said using Christmas as a pulpit was “unjustifiable” as it put thousands of families and businesses at risk, and that the government will work with “all UK ports and airports and have strong plans to minimize any delay.

Royal Mail workers hold signs and banners as they gather in Parliament Square, for a pay and jobs protest, in London, Friday, December 9, 2022. The Communications Workers Union has planned a six-day strike for wages.

Royal Mail workers hold signs and banners as they gather in Parliament Square, for a pay and jobs protest, in London, Friday, December 9, 2022. The Communications Workers Union has planned a six-day strike for wages.
(AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

The number of striking groups will continue to grow in the coming weeks, with highway and Border Force workers starting their strike before Christmas and staying on strike through the holiday.

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Border Force workers oversee passport controls at major airports and customs, which means travelers can spend hours or see little movement through major checkpoints if traveling during the holiday season.

British Labor Party leader Keir Starmer speaks in the House of Commons in London on December 7, 2022.

British Labor Party leader Keir Starmer speaks in the House of Commons in London on December 7, 2022.
(UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters)

Royal Mail suggested residents send Christmas letters and parcels earlier than usual to avoid delays due to the strike.

Sunak and Labor Party leader Sir Keir Starmer argued over the union disputes, with Sunak accusing Starmer of not “standing up for the workers”, while Starmer claimed that Sunak was “great” and needed to “solve these issues”.

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Trades Union Congress General Secretary Frances O’Grady urged the two leaders to stop firing “political shots” and start negotiating over wages. Starmer said Labor would oppose “unworkable” minimum service standards legislation, but Sunak insists his government has taken a reasonable stance and accepted independent reviews of adequate pay.



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