It’s officially strike season, and tomorrow is set to be the biggest day of walkouts in the public sector so far.
Teachers, university staff, civil servants and train drivers will all go on strike on February 1 as talks with the government over pay and working conditions grind to a halt.
In total, HuffPost UK estimates that around 484,000 workers could go on strike in the co-ordinated day of action.
The unions have been campaigning for pay rises that at least match inflation to curb the worst effects of the rising cost of living, but the government has stuck to the line that such pay demands are unaffordable in the current economic climate and would lead to an inflationary spiral.
A Downing Street spokesperson said there had been “significant planning work” in advance of all strikes, including using around 600 military and other civil servants and volunteers to help minimise the disruption to public services.
Here HuffPost UK runs you through all the strikes that will take place tomorrow and how they will affect you.
Teachers who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) will walk out in their first day of action since the public sector strikes over pensions in 2011.
HuffPost UK reported that the NEU’s successful strike ballot could see about 260,000 teachers go on strike, but the union has since seen its membership swell by 40,000 members — meaning the total number could reach 300,000.
Around 23,400 schools across England and Wales could be forced to close but the exact number is not yet known. Ultimately, a school will close at the discretion of the headteacher.
The NEU’s industrial action will not only affect primary and secondary schools but also sixth form colleges in England, who are striking in a separate dispute with the government.
In Scotland, members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) will go on strike in Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen.
Nicola Hawkins, a teacher based in Cumbria, told the PA news agency that she voted for strike action because it was in “everyone’s long-term interests”.
She said teachers had raised with the Department for Education (DfE) that recruitment targets aren’t being met and that teachers were leaving the profession, but that “our pay has been whittled away over the last decade”.
“Long term, what I really want for the kids in my school, and for every school really, is for students to be taught by people who are valued and who are paid their worth,” she said.
“And I think it sells those students short if they don’t have that.”
More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK are striking over February and March, including this Wednesday.
The University and College Union (UCU) says its series of strikes are the biggest-ever to hit UK university campuses.
The union has said it wants the government to “substantially improve” its pay offer of 4-5% and is also calling for an end to the use of insecure contracts and cuts that could see its average members lose 35% from their guaranteed future retirement income.
The UCU says it expects every affected campus to shut on strike days.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “University staff dedicate their lives to education and they want to get back to work, but that will only happen if university vice-chancellors use the vast wealth of the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant insecure employment practices and devastating pension cuts. The choice is theirs.”
Around 100,000 civil servants will refuse to work across 124 government departments and other organisations on February 1, including Border Force, the Department for Transport, the Department for Education and the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union is calling for a 10% pay rise, “pensions justice, job security and and no cuts to redundancy terms”.
On announcing the strike, general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “The government must look at the huge vote for strike action across swathes of the civil service and realise it can no longer treat its workers with contempt.
“Civil servants have willingly and diligently played a vital role in keeping the country running during the pandemic but enough is enough.
“The stress of working in the civil service, under the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, job cuts and office closures means they’ve reached the end of their tethers.”
Train drivers at the RMT and Aslef unions will go on strike on Wednesday, effectively grinding the rail network to a halt.
Around 12,500 Aslef drivers will walk out, while around 200 RMT drivers will also refuse to work.
In total, 14 train operators will be affected, including: Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern, South Western Railway, TransPennine Express, Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains and GTR (including Gatwick Express).
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said: “Our negotiations will continue with the rail operators to create a package on jobs, conditions and pay that can be offered to our members.”
Around 1,900 members of the Unite union who are employed by Abellio in London will walk out on February 1 after no agreement on pay was reached.
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said Abellio was an “incredibly wealthy company” that could “fully afford to make a fair pay offer which meets our members’ expectations — but it has failed to do so”.
Transport for London says it will aim to run as many services as possible but that passengers should expect disruption. The affected routes are mostly in west and south London.