Rail strikes cause chaos across Suffolk – and more walkouts are brewing
- Credit: ARCHANT/PA
Rail strikes will cause chaos for families across Suffolk this week – and further disputes could cause more disruption over the summer.
Today is the first of three days of strike action on the railways after the RMT union and train operators could not come to an agreement on pay and conditions.
A skeleton timetable of train services will run in Suffolk on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday this week because of the strikes.
Disruption on the railway is expected for the rest of the week as a knock-on from the strikes, and AA bosses say major roads will be busy as people are forced to drive.
Tim Shoveller, lead negotiator for Network Rail, one of the companies involved in the dispute, said: “We are absolutely committed to trying to find a way through this.
“As always, this is about how we can make the railway more efficient to generate the funds so that we can make the pay awards that our colleagues want.”
But John Leach, RMT assistant general secretary, said railway workers were "some of the most determined, professional, dedicated people you’ll ever meet" and were determined to see the strike action through.
And elsewhere in the county BT staff, nurses, teachers, postal workers and doctors could also go on strike.
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Workers at the BT group, including many of those who work at Adastral Park in Martlesham, are being balloted on strike action due to a dispute over pay.
Paul Moffat, eastern regional secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), said he expects "a resounding result" from the poll on June 30, from workers at the telecoms giant.
Mr Moffat said BT had not taken industrial action since the mid-1980s and workers deserved a "proper pay rise" to help workers "put food on the table" during the cost-of-living crisis.
He said: "We don't take striking lightly, or the imposition of any disagreement, but if that's what it takes us what we'll have to do."
A BT Group spokesman said: “We awarded the highest pay rise we could for team members and frontline colleagues across BT Group. It’s our highest salary increase in more than 20 years.
“So it’s disappointing that the CWU has decided to ballot for industrial action without consulting its members on the outcome of our negotiations. If a strike takes place, nobody wins.”
The CWU also represents some Royal Mail workers and will begin balloting them about whether to go on strike from Monday, June 27.
Mr Moffat, boss of the CWU in the east, said the dispute related to pay.
Managers at Royal Mail are also being balloted over what Unite called "unpaid overtime".
It comes after larger Post Offices across the country have been repeatedly closed due to a separate dispute with the CWU.
Teaching unions are also considering balloting their members on strike action if a significant pay increase is not offered.
Graham White, from Suffolk NEU, said: "Teachers are concerned that, once again, they're going to lose out in terms of real pay.
"We know that education funding has not increased per pupil, in real-terms, and so that's placed an even greater strain on staff and on resources within schools."
A pay award for 2022/23 is due in November.
Binmen and other local government workers are "fed up of seeing the value of the pay go down year after year" and could be forced to go on strike if pay demands are not met, union bosses say.
Tim Roberts, Eastern regional secretary for Unison, said: "Staff across Suffolk’s public services are reeling from the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades.
“Pay for nurses, refuse workers, teaching assistants, hospitals porters, PCSOs, care workers and millions of other workers who kept the country going during the pandemic is being gobbled up by inflation."
The union, which represents around 80,000 public service workers in the east of England, say the government must pay up to give local authorities the cash to increase wages.
Mr Roberts said: "Staff are fed up of seeing the value of the pay go down year after year and many are already leaving to find better paid and less stressful jobs in the private sector. Unless we see decent offers, staff may be left with no options but to strike.”
Many staff are currently waiting for central pay reviews but some, like those employed as contractors, could see a direct negotiation between their employers and unions.
Nurses and doctors
Both nurses and doctors are heading towards disputes with their employers.
Nurses, like many other Unison members, are unhappy with their wages decreasing in real terms due to inflation.
Mr Roberts, the union's eastern general secretary, said a decision from the review board which sets wages across the NHS was expected "any day", after which the union will consult its members.
Meanwhile, the BMA – which represents doctors – announced that if junior doctors' pay did not go up 22% the junior doctors could go out on strike by early 2023 at the latest.
The union said 22% was equivalent to how far newly-qualified doctors' pay had fallen since 2008/09.