MILLIONS of kids will miss school tomorrow after last-ditch talks between ministers and unions collapsed into a bitter blame game.
Teachers will join train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers and bus staff in striking on Wednesday.
The historic "day of action" is believed to be the worst in a decade and sparked fears Britain will grind to a halt.
And last night firefighters voted to strike for the first time in 20 years – and senior doctors threatened to walk out.
Members of the Fire Brigades Union backed industrial action by 88 per cent after being urged to snub a 5 per cent pay offer.
General Secretary Matt Wrack gave Ministers 10 days to make him a better offer before he moved to unleash the sector’s first nationwide strikes since 2003.
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He said: “This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers.”
Consultants could be next after the British Medical Association launched a survey to see if there is appetite to walk out. Its junior doctor members are already set to vote for strike.
Downing Street last night said there was “no doubt” the Winter of Discontent was taking a crippling toll on businesses already treading water after the pandemic.
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Teachers will walk out of around 23,400 schools to crank up pressure on the government to meet their pay demands.
Headteachers were last night dusting down lockdown-era plans to keep the most vulnerable and key worker pupils in school – but as many as 4.5million will be sent home.
To cause maximum disruption, National Education Union co-chiefs Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney have told members not to notify heads of their plans to strike.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan yesterday demanded they drop their militancy for the sake of kids who have suffered missed learning during lockdown.
Teachers bagging as much as £6,700 pay rise
EXCLUSIVE, by JACK ELSOM, Political Correspondent
MANY teachers have bagged inflation-busting pay rises as much as £6,700, according to official Whitehall stats seen by the Sun
Unions are furious with the government for awarding school staff an average 5.4 per cent – but almost half have also moved up a salary band in that time.
Around 40 per cent of all teachers would have received both the government pay increase and a career progression boost last year.
Junior teachers promoted from the bottom to the next rung up got a total 15.9 per cent increase overall – a £4,086 bump.
And a teacher in inner London jumping from the main to the upper pay grade will get a whopping £6,696.
No teacher moving up in the main band would have got less then a 12.4 per cent cash boost.
And for experienced teachers moving up the minimum pay increase would be 8.5 per cent.
Rishi Sunak’s spokesman blasted the devastating strikes for affecting “some of the hardest hit groups during the pandemic”.
And he despaired of the “knock on impact on parents who will have to scramble to get childcare”.
Following yesterday’s meeting Ms Bousted and Mr Courtney accused Ms Keegan of “squandering” the final chance to avoid strikes by refusing to budge on pay.
But the Tory Minister shot back that they were playing politics, saying “it is clear that strikes are not being used as a last resort”.
Meanwhile the NHS faces its biggest ever strike next week, when nurses and ambulance staff walk out together on February 6.
Mr Sunak yesterday said he “would love to” bump nurses’ pay but fears it would fuel inflation.
Addressing health staff on a visit to County Durham, the PM said: “Nothing would give me more pleasure than to wave a magic wand and have all of you paid lots more.
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“It would be a bad thing for all of you if that meant inflation was running really high in a year's time.”
Last night the government's anti-strike laws sailed through the Commons and will now move to the Lords.
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