Europe

Military personnel on stand-by to limit strike chaos

Public ‘won’t take kindly’ to Xmas NHS staff strikes says Roy Lilley

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The Government has said that approximately 2,000 military personnel are on stand-by to be drafted to support services being hit by strikes. Volunteers, civil servants and military members are already being trained up to takeover services including Border Force at ports and airports.

A number of others may be deployed as emergency service providers including ambulance drivers and firefighters.

While the military have not yet been deployed, the Government said that the personnel “are part of the range of options available should strike action in these areas go ahead as planned”.

As the nation battles the rising cost of living crisis and a recession, trade unions are launching strike action to get pay increases in line with inflation and to improve working conditions.

As part of the upcoming strikes tens of thousands of workers are set to take to the picket lines.

The Government said: “Multiple unions have taken the decision to strike over the coming weeks, leaving millions of people facing disruption over the Christmas period.

“Many unions are asking for uplifts in line with inflation or even more – despite comparable uplifts in the private sector averaging between four and six percent so far this year.

“The government recognises these are very challenging economic times. That’s why it is focused on getting inflation under control as the best way to help everyone’s money go further and avoid soaring inflation rates being embedded in the UK economy.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak responded to demands from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to increase pay at five percent about RPI inflation which is currently 14 percent as “obviously unaffordable”.

The Government statement added: “There is still time to call off planned strikes and ministers have repeatedly called for unions and employers to keep talking and come to an agreement, rather than take pre-emptive industrial action.”

Pat Cullen, General Secretary and Chief Executive of the RCN, argued that ministers could prevent the strike by agreeing to the union’s demand for a 19.2 percent pay rise.

She said: “Every nurse feels a heavy weight of responsibility to make this strike safe.

“Patients are already at great risk and we will not add to it.

“This list of exemptions shows how seriously we take our commitment.

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“Nursing staff do not want to take this action, but ministers have chosen strikes over negotiations.They can stop this at any point.”

Meanwhile, if there is any hope of a deal being made with the rail workers union to restore the Christmas rail service, an agreement must be made within the next few days.

RMT Union General Secretary Mick Lynch sat down with government ministers on Friday and told Sky News that “talks are continuing over the weekend…We’ll see where we go from there.”

Mr Lynch also admitted that the government “have got a lot on their plate” and are taking the union action “seriously” despite a “lot going on in society at the minute”.

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