Strikes UK – live: Sunak ‘pathetic’ in trying to shift blame as schools hit by walkout
Rishi Sunak faced a testing Prime Minister’s Question time against a backdrop of Britain’s biggest strike day in more than a decade.
Sir Keir Starmer said the prime minister was “pathetic” for trying to blame Labour for the mass walkouts.
He told MPs: “After 13 years in power, trying to blame the Labour Party for his failure to sort out the strikes is rank pathetic. The Tory Party’s addiction to sleaze and scandal has done huge damage to this country and the cost to the public keeps adding up.”
Mr Sunak replied: “He can’t stand up to his union bosses, he can’t stand up for Britain’s schoolchildren today and he can’t stand up for the women in his party.”
Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards are among half a million workers walking out today, as union bosses accuse the government of frustrating efforts to reach compromise on pay deals.
Around 85 per cent of schools are either fully or partially closed by strike action today, while the bulk of Britain’s train network is offline.
Rishi Sunak ‘pathetic’ in blaming Labour for strikes
Majority of schools fully or partially closed today due to strike action
All the trains cancelled for strikes
15:40 , Katy Clifton
We are pausing our live updates for the afternoon, but you can find our latest politics coverage here.
Network Rail revises offer to signal and maintenance staff
15:35 , Jane Dalton
Network Rail (NR) has made a “newly revised” offer to the biggest rail workers’ union in a bid to break the deadlock over a long-running dispute about pay, jobs and conditions.
The infrastructure giant said it has added some fresh proposals to the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), representing signallers, maintenance staff and other workers at NR.
The union said it would consider the details of the offer.
NR said new elements of the offer included an increase in London allowances for those who are currently on, or move onto, different contracts.
“We want to introduce a standard 35-hour working week for everyone. We’re now committing to work with the unions to review contracts above a 35-hour week so we can agree a way forward.
“We’ll introduce a better long-service award framework for general grades, which will be backdated to 2022.
“We’ll improve carers’ leave. If you are a registered carer, you will be able to transfer five days’ paid volunteering leave to five days’ paid carers’ leave,” said Mr Shoveller.
NR said it was offering a minimum uplift of a consolidated £1,750 or a 5% increase (whichever is greater) up to a maximum uplift of £3,500 to the annual base rates of pay, with back pay from 1 January 2022, and a 4% increase to the annual base rates of pay effective from January 2023.
Over the two years, this adds up to an increase of between 9.2% to 14.4% - more for those on the lowest salaries, said NR.
There was also a commitment to no compulsory redundancies until January 2025, a 75% leisure travel discount for employees and their family, 75% reduction on an employee’s season ticket, and an opportunity to sell 10 days of leave if any is carried over from 2022.
Apprentices will have a “big increase” to their pay, backdated to April 2022, said NR.
Labour MPs defy leader to join picket lines
15:10 , Jane Dalton
A number of Labour MPs have joined picket lines to support striking workers, despite Keir Starmer previously saying no MP should do so “if they want to be in government”.
Labour MPs such as Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery and Kate Osborne joining picket lines during Wednesday’s strikes, and the Conservative Party press office account shared tweets from some of them.
Former party leader Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: “They are striking for decent pay. They are striving for social justice. They are fighting for us all.”
The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) tweeted their thanks to Labour MPs who attended picket lines.
Left-winger Sam Tarry, the former frontbencher who represents Islington South, was previously sacked as a shadow transport minister after giving interviews from a picket line in July.
He defended his decision to join striking teachers in his constituency, and responded to the Tory party press office’s twitter thread by saying: “Much rather you focused on fairer pay for front line workers than me standing on picket lines... as Labour MPs have done so for over a 100 years.”
Sir Keir previously declined to say whether he would cross any picket line at Parliament during the civil servants’ strike.
Thanks so much to @IanLaveryMP @RichardBurgon and @_OliviaBlake for coming down to our @beisgovuk picket line to show support. 😊 #PCSonStrike pic.twitter.com/1DqjHgsiKO
— PCS Union - BEIS London & South 🚩💚✊🏾 (@BEIS_PCS_LS) February 1, 2023
This morning I showed my support on many picket lines for @pcs_union across Whitehall as workers took to the streets to share the challenges they are facing at work. pic.twitter.com/Nbnb4trhXa
— 💙Rachael Maskell MP (@RachaelMaskell) February 1, 2023
Delighted to join and address the @pcs_union picket lines in London this morning. Many who are on the National Minimum wage many are claiming in work benefits & 40,000 are using food banks.
— Ian Lavery MP (@IanLaveryMP) February 1, 2023
Brexit has nothing to do with falling living standards, claims Sunak
14:50 , Liam James
The impact on people’s living standards has “got nothing to do with Brexit”, Rishi Sunak said, as the SNP Westminster leader described the UK as a “Brexit ship” that “sinks”.
Stephen Flynn said: “Let’s be clear, taken together 2022 and 2023 are expected to be the worst years for living standards since the 1930s and the economy is expected to perform worse than sanction hit Russia.
“So whilst the Brexit ship sinks with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition at the helm, does he blame those Scots who want to jump aboard the independence lifeboat?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “The number one factor that is impacting people’s living standards, inflation caused by high energy prices as a result of a war in Ukraine.
“It’s got nothing to do with Brexit and that’s why the Government is taking significant action supporting every family with £900 this winter, but what I would say to him is rather than obsess about constitutional arrangements, focus on delivering for the people of Scotland, that’s what we will do.”
Services disrupted on South Western Railway
14:42 , Jane Dalton
South Western Railway had told passengers it intended to run a full service on its mainline network on Wednesday, but there was disruption due to drivers not crossing picket lines.
The operator said: “Whilst our drivers are not on strike, some drivers are refusing to cross picket lines in support of our depot drivers who are taking industrial action today.”
It added there may be “short notice cancellations, delays and alterations to services on all routes”.
Analysis of train performance website trains.im showed 7.6% of services were either cancelled or more than half an hour late up to 2pm on Wednesday.
The figure for the entire day on Tuesday was 0.4%.
Why are Britain’s teachers striking?
14:30 , Liam James
Joe Sommerlad looks at the struggle behind the strike:
Why are Britain’s teachers striking?
Boris Johnson says people accusing him of Partygate cover-up ‘out of their minds’
14:10 , Liam James
Boris Johnson has lashed out over Partygate scandal, accusing anyone who suspects he deliberately covered up Covid lockdown parties in No 10 of being “out of their mind” (Adam Forrest writes).
The former prime minister said the claim was “strictly for the birds”, despite being under investigation for allegedly lying to parliament over lockdown breaches.
In an interview with loyal Tory ally Nadine Dorries – who Mr Johnson is believed to have recommended for a peerage – he said he thought their mid-pandemic gatherings were “within the rules”.
The former Tory leader insisted he had to be “respectful” to the cross-party privileges committee that is undertaking the inquiry into him.
“But I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before, and I hope it’s obvious to everybody, that anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in No 10, or then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to, that’s all strictly for the birds,” he said.
Partygate cover-up? Accusers ‘out of their minds’, says Boris Johnson
‘Zombie’ teachers offered anti-depressants as ‘burnt out’ staff strike over pay
13:50 , Liam James
Underpaid, overstretched and utterly exhausted, teachers who back strike action have described working like “zombies” as schools struggle to retain staff.
Kemi Oloyede, assistant head teacher of a school in London, described one colleague, a pastoral worker, who could not afford to feed her children.
“How is it fair that someone who looks after other people’s children isn’t left with enough to take care of her own?” she asked. “Why would you not want to take care of those who take care of your children? I can’t give the best of myself to your child if I can’t take care of my basic needs.”
Maryam Zakir-Hussain hears from teachers on the brink:
‘Zombie’ teachers offered anti-depressants as ‘burnt out’ staff go on strike over pay
Train strike deal has drifted further away, says union boss
13:30 , Liam James
Aslef general Secretary Mick Whelan has said a deal which would bring an end to strikes is “further away than when we started” following months of failed negotiations with the government.
Speaking about whether Rishi Sunak’s cabinet has ushered in any hope for negotiations following months of stagnation under previous leaders, Mr Whelan told PA: “This isn’t a new government – the same people have been in place for 12 years.
“They’ve had 12 years to look at the needs of the economy, the needs of workers, and they’ve either got to adjust what they are doing, or they are going to go into recession.”
He added: “I think we’re further away than when we started. I think the bad faith non-offer that was put out to the press, not run through negotiation teams, and that threatened us with compulsory redundancies, has exacerbated an already difficult situation.”
Latest pictures from the picket lines
13:10 , Liam James
Photographs are coming through from picket lines across the country as hundreds of thousands of workers go on strike.
Former Tory chair snipes at striking civil servants
12:55 , Liam James
Jake Berry, Tory MP and former chair of the party, took a dig at striking civil servants over their alleged tendency to work from home.
The former minister has previously remarked on the matter, in October 2021 telling civil servants to stop “woke-ing” from home, as he claimed government workers were firmly on one side of a so-called culture war.
I haven't seen this many civil servants in Westminster since the start of the pandemic.
Just a shame they've only come in to stand on a picket line.
Back to #workingfromhome tomorrow. #strikes pic.twitter.com/d2u0EORejQ
— Jake Berry MP (@JakeBerry) February 1, 2023
Sunak ‘pathetic’ in blaming Labour for strikes
12:34 , Liam James
Sir Keir Starmer used his final remarks to accuse the Conservatives of having an “addiction to sleaze and scandal”.
He told MPs: “After 13 years in power, trying to blame the Labour Party for his failure to sort out the strikes is rank pathetic. The Tory Party’s addiction to sleaze and scandal has done huge damage to this country and the cost to the public keeps adding up.
“We’ve got a justice system letting murderers walk the street, heart attack victims waiting hours for an ambulance, an economy that is shrinking quicker than his leadership, and even I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw that his Government is expecting taxpayers to pay the legal fees for the member for Uxbridge (Boris Johnson) defending himself over his lockdown rule-breaking. A quarter of a million pounds.
“Surely even this prime minister can put his foot down, stand up to his old boss and tell him he made the mess, he can pick up the bill?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “He can’t stand up to his union bosses, he can’t stand up for Britain’s schoolchildren today and he can’t stand up for the women in his party.”
Striking teachers gather outside BBC
12:26 , Liam James
Thousands of teachers gathered outside Broadcasting House on Wednesday as they prepared to march to Westminster.
Teachers chanted “Hey, hey, Sunak, ooh ahh, I want to know if you’ll fund my school” to the tune of “Hey! Baby”. They also carried signs demanding the government “pay up”. Wimbledon primary school teachers Jess Olivares, 26, and Laura Mears, 29, were among those marching.
Ms Olivares said: “We’re here today because change really needs to happen, we need more funding in our schools. This is about our children and the future of our children.”
She said that children with special education needs were being affected by a lack of funding for schools.
Sunak ‘raised more questions than answered’ with Zahawi sacking
12:24 , Liam James
The prime minister “raised more questions than answers” when he announced Nadhim Zahawi would be sacked as Tory party chairman at the weekend, Sir Keir Starmer said.
The Labour leader said: “When the Prime Minster briefly emerged form his hibernation at the weekend he raised more questions than answers.
“So in the interest of integrity and accountability, can he set the record straight? Did his now former chair tell Government officials that he was under investigation by the taxman before or after the Prime Minister appointed him?”
Rishi Sunak replied: “I appointed the independent adviser to investigate this matter fully. He has set out his findings in detail over the weekend and on receipt of those findings I took action, and I would refer him to the independent adviser’s report.”
Both party leaders also paid tribute to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, whose wife died at the weekend.
Keir Starmer grills Rishi Sunak on Nadhim Zahawi's tax scandal
12:19 , Liam James
Sunak just like Boris Johnson, says Starmer
12:16 , Liam James
Sir Keir Starmer compared Rishi Sunak to Boris Johnson, saying he treats questions about conduct as “something to brush off”.
“The Tory party’s addiction to sleaze and scandal has done huge damage to this country.
“Surely even this PM can put his foot down and stand up to his old boss, and say, ‘He made the mess he can pick up the bill’.”
‘I take action’ says Sunak
12:14 , Liam James
Responding to Sir Keir Starmer’s accusation that he did nothing about bullying claims against Dominic Raab, Rishi Sunak said:
“When I was made aware of formal complaints I appointed a leading KC to undertake an investigation because I take action when these things happen.”
What about Raab? – asks Starmer
12:13 , Liam James
Sir Keir Starmer has moved onto Dominic Raab, the justice secretary who faces several bullying claims.
The Labour leader said Rishi Sunak was “too weak to do anything about it”.
House of Commons hears The Independent’s Zahawi reports
12:10 , Liam James
MPs heard how The Independent broke news of Nadhim Zahawi’s tax affairs, starting a chain of events that would lead to his sacking as Tory chair last week.
At PMQs Sir Keir Starmer asked Rishi Sunak about his knowledge of the former minister’s trouble with HMRC.
“Mr Speaker, in The Independent sixth of July: ‘New Chancellor’s finances secretly investigated by the National Crime Agency’,” he said in reference to this paper’s first report on what would become a huge scandal.
Starmer asks about Zahawi sacking
12:04 , Sam Rkaina
Sir Keir Starmer has asked if Nadhim Zahawi told officials he was being investigated by HMRC before or afer Rishi appointed him.
Watch PMQs live
12:03 , Liam James
Independent TV is hosting PMQs live on YouTube.
Rishi Sunak is at the despatch box now.
Watch: Strikers march through London
11:40 , Liam James
Independent TV is following a workers’ march through the streets of London.
Keep up with the long walk to Downing Street here:
Rishi Sunak to face PMQs amid mass strike action
11:23 , Liam James
Rishi Sunak will face Prime Minister’s Question at midday as around half a million workers walk out on Britain’s biggest day of strike action in more than a decade.
Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards are among the professions walking out today.
Union bosses on the picket lines have accused the government of forcing the action. Mick Whelan, general secretary of the Aslef union, told The Independent: “The reality that this is a political strike driven by the government.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will use this afternoon’s session to grill the prime minister over his government’s record over months of widespread industrial action, which have seen ministers table new laws to limit the rights of striking workers.
University staff ‘really, really dissatisfied'
11:03 , Liam James
Howard Stevenson, a professor in education at the University of Nottingham and a UCU Officer, said at a picket line that staff were “really, really dissatisfied” with a number of issues but said employers had only engaged on “the most minor details”.
He said: “Alongside the pension issue, we also have concerns about pay because pay has been eroded very substantially, over the last 10 years in particular.
“Workloads are very high, pay gaps are a concern, across the sector they are very high and at the University of Nottingham and we have something like a 20 per cent gender pay gap.
“This campaign is about tackling those issues, and in the higher education sector generally there is systemic misuse of precarious contracts, so many of our colleagues are on hourly paid contracts or fixed term contracts, so there are very high levels of job insecurity.
Traffic levels plummet as half a million strike
10:44 , Liam James
Traffic levels in cities across Britain plummeted on Wednesday morning as up to half a million workers went on strike, causing the closure of thousands of schools.
Location technology company TomTom said the level of road congestion in London at 8am was 68 per cent, down from 82 per cent a week earlier.
Other cities that saw a drop in traffic over the same period include Birmingham (from 77 per cent to 63 per cent), Bristol (from 79 per cent to 54 per cent), Glasgow (from 73 per cent to 65 per cent), Liverpool (from 67 per cent to 41 per cent), Manchester (from 100 per cent to 78 per cent) and Sheffield (from 64 per cent to 50 per cent).
The figures represent the proportion of additional time required for journeys compared with free-flow conditions.
TomTom traffic expert Andy Marchant said: “As half a million workers go on strike across the UK today, shutting down rail lines and schools, TomTom data has shown that congestion during this morning’s rush hour has fallen significantly from its usual levels.
“Our data suggests that workers have become accustomed to the disruption and are planning their commute accordingly or are staying at home altogether, heeding the advice to avoid any unnecessary travel and brace for significant disruption to their daily lives.”
Rail walkout is ‘a political strike driven by the government,’ claims train driver union boss
10:22 , Liam James
On the first day of the latest round of national rail strikes, the train drivers’ leader has accused the government of forcing workers to walk out after deciding “train drivers aren’t worth a pay rise” (Simon Calder writes).
Mick Whelan, general secretary of the Aslef union, was speaking at the picket line at London Euston station on the first day of the latest round of national rail strikes.
Train drivers who belong to Aslef and work for 15 train operators are walking out in pursuit of a pay claim.
Mr Whelan told The Independent: “The reality that this is a political strike driven by the government.
“The government decided the train drivers aren’t worth a pay rise.”
More from The Independent’s travel desk here.
Teachers struggling with lack of funding
10:00 , Sam Rkaina
James Hibbard, head of Year 10, and a geography and food technology teacher at Myton School, Warwick, said he was striking because he felt getting proper funding was “a real struggle”.
Speaking from the picket line outside school: “For my role as head of year, we’re always looking for funding to allow students to meet their full potential and it just doesn’t seem to be available at the moment.
“We’re struggling to get them the funding that they need really.
“Trying to get students with special educational needs, trying to get them education, health and care (EHC) plans, everything is being cut, funding just isn’t available.”
Mass strikes leave Paddington station deserted
09:45 , Sam Rkaina
Pictures from protests across UK
09:42 , Sam Rkaina
Half a million talking part in biggest walkouts in decade
09:40 , Sam Rkaina
The biggest strike in a decade is under way, with up to half a million workers walking out in increasingly bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
Members of seven trade unions are taking industrial action, affecting schools, universities, trains and buses.
Thousands of schools closed for the day because of action by the National Education Union (NEU), although many parents only found out on Wednesday morning if their children would have to stay at home.
Civil servants, train and bus drivers and university staff also stopped work on the biggest single day of strikes in a decade.
Picket lines were mounted outside railway stations, schools, government departments and universities across the country, with unions saying they are receiving strong support from the public.
More than 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are on strike, including Border Agency staff at ports and airports.
The union announced on Tuesday night that its Border Force members in France will strike during the February half-term.
Protest signs from the picket lines
09:34 , Sam Rkaina
Union photocall delayed as banner stuck in traffic
09:22 , Sam Rkaina
A photocall for a train drivers’ strike at Euston station was slightly delayed on Wednesday morning due to the worker with their main banner being stuck in traffic.
Several Aslef union workers gathered outside the central London station at 8am as planned, but their large red banner had to be unfurled half an hour later due to transport delays.
The workers were joined by their general secretary, Mick Whelan, who spoke with the media while several passing cars beeped their horns in support of the strike.
Mr Whelan said 12,000 train drivers were taking industrial action across the country on Wednesday.
The government ‘must act and put things right,’ NEU joint secretary says
09:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Asked about government’s response to the teachers’ strikes, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “They never thought we’d reach the (strike ballot) threshold.
“Since we’ve reached the threshold, 40,000 more people have joined the union as well.
“So it does show there’s a huge strength of feeling within the profession, that the government must act and put things right.”
Majority of schools fully or partially closed today due to strike action
08:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Around 85 per cent of schools will be either fully or partially closed by strike action on Wednesday, the general secretary of the National Education Union has said.
Speaking outside Bishop Thomas Grant School in Streatham, south London, Dr Mary Bousted told the BBC: “About 85 per cent of schools will be affected - either fully closed or partially closed - today.”
She said striking teachers have received “many” messages of support from parents.
“We are very sorry that parents have been so inconvenienced by this strike action,” she said.
“We know that for many of them it will be very difficult to get childcare.
“But we’re also receiving many more messages from parents who say ‘Well, something has to be done, my child is being taught by supply teacher after supply teacher’.”
Education secretary says she expects most schools will be open today despite teachers’ strikes
08:22 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Education secretary Gillian Keegan has said she expects most schools will open on Wednesday despite the strike by teachers.
She told BBC Breakfast: “We did do a survey and we have rung round a lot of schools as well and that told us told us that the majority of schools will be open but some will have restrictions for different cohorts.”
Ms Keegan said the the country could not afford above-inflation pay awards.
“What is not realistic is for us to be looking at inflation or inflation-busting pay rises. We cannot risk fuelling inflation with inflation-busting pay rises. We have to look after everybody in the economy,” she said.
Heathrow Airport operating as normal despite Border Force strikes
07:59 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Heathrow Airport said it is operating as normal with minimal queuing in immigration halls despite the strike by Border Force workers.
A spokeswoman for the airport said: “Heathrow is fully operational, passengers are flowing through the border smoothly with Border Force and the military contingency providing a good level of service for arriving passengers.
“We are working to support Border Force’s plans to continue the smooth operation of the airport during this period of industrial action.”
Keegan “surprised” teachers not required to give strike warning
07:45 , Sam Rkaina
Ms Keegan has said she had been surprised to learn that teachers were not required to say in advance if they were taking part in Wednesday’s strike.
Ms Keegan said the legal position would remain “under review.”
“It was a surprise to some of us that was in fact the law. I did write to everybody urging them to be constructive, to let their heads know, and I am sure may teachers will have done that,” she told Times Radio.
“There are discussions around minimum service levels, minimum safety levels, around hospitals around rail – education is part of that bill as well.
“We are hoping not to use that, we are hoping to make sure we continue with constructive discussions and relationships but these things will always stay under review.”
Education Secretary “disappointed” by teachers’ strike
07:27 , Sam Rkaina
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has said she “disappointed” that a strike by teachers in England and Wales is going ahead.
Ms Keegan told Times Radio the industrial action was unnecessary as discussions with the unions were continuing.
“I am disappointed that it has come to this, that the unions have made this decision. It is not a last resort. We are still in discussions. Obviously there is a lot of strike action today but this strike did not need to go ahead,” she said.
Ms Keegan said she did not know how many schools would be forced to closed due to the industrial action.
“We are hoping as many schools as possible stay open. We know that head teachers and other school leaders have been working really hard to keep schools open for as many kids as possible,” she said.
Today will be very difficult, Downing Street admits
07:00 , Liam James
Downing Street has conceded that today’s mass strike action will be “very difficult”.
Around half a million public service workers will walk out today including teachers, train drivers and civil servants.
Thousands of schools will be closed or partially closed and the bulk of Britain’s train network will be offline as talks to avoid the disruption failed.
Asked about the impact of the widespread action, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We know that there will be significant disruption given the scale of the strike action that is taking place tomorrow and that will be very difficult for the public trying to go about their daily lives.
“We are upfront that this will disrupt people’s lives and that’s why we think negotiations rather than picket lines are the right approach.”
Teachers’ union head on morning rounds
06:00 , Liam James
Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), will be doing the morning news rounds today as around 200,000 teachers take the first of their seven planned strike days.
You can hear from Dr Bousted on BBC Radion 4’s Today programme at 7.10am, BBC Breakfast at 8.10, Sky News at 8.20, Channel 5 at 9 and BBC Woman’s Hour at 11.
On Monday Dr Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint NEU general secretary, said: “We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands.
“It is disappointing that the government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.”
Schools out: 200,000 teachers to strike in biggest shutdown for three decades
05:00 , Liam James
Parts of the country will effectively grind to a halt on “Walkout Wednesday” as around 200,000 teachers take part in their largest strike for three decades, closing classrooms in 85 per cent of schools (Kate Devlin writes).
In total, half a million teachers, university staff, train drivers, Border Force workers, civil servants and security guards are predicted to take part in a coordinated day of industrial action.
NHS patients and nursery children also risk being disproportionately affected as staff, many of them women, are forced to stay home to look after their own school-age pupils, experts have warned.
Most trains in England will not run, queues are predicted at airports and 600 military personnel are being drafted in to support public services.
Department of Health ‘has missed deadline’ for NHS pay review body
04:00 , Liam James
The Department of Health and Social Care has missed the deadline for submitting evidence on next year’s pay award for more than a million NHS staff, MPs have been told (Ella Pickover writes).
Former health minister Steve Brine, who is now chair of the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, said he was “astonished” that the Department had missed the deadline. But the Treasury has submitted evidence, MPs were told.
Meanwhile, the chair of the NHS Pay Review Body said that the process by which the group advises the Government on remuneration for more than a million NHS staff “feels independent”.
Department of Health ‘has missed deadline’ for 23/24 pay review body
Food banks and second-hand dancing shoes – the struggles that led to the strikes
02:30 , PA
Striking workers have told of the struggles that are forcing them to join walkouts on Wednesday – including the use of food banks and buying second-hand dancing shoes for their children.
Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions will walk out on Wednesday in disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
The PA news agency spoke to some workers from across the sectors, who have given their reasons for striking – whether it be to get better support for their children or simply to make ends meet.
Food banks and second-hand dancing shoes – the struggles that led to the strikes
London Underground workers striking for safety
01:00 , Liam James
You would be forgiven for assuming all strikes taking place in Britain’s 21st century Winter of Discontent were all over pay concerns.
But staff on one London Underground line have an altogether different gripe with their employers: passenger safety.
Aslef workers on the Bakerloo line will walk out on Saturdays 4 and 11 over a TfL plan that they say will risk unaware passengers being rolled into train depots.
Currently, trains on the line are physically checked to make sure they are empty before the driver heads on to the sidings or a depot, but the union said management want to remove this safety check as part of a cost-cutting plan.
Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Underground, said: “Previous experience had shown that removing physical checks means that thousands of passengers are unwittingly taken into sidings or depots.
“We understand the pressure that London Underground is under to cut costs, but this cannot be at the expense of the safety of passengers and staff.”
BBC journalist to take strike ballot
00:00 , Liam James
BBC journalists are to vote on industrial action in a dispute over planned changes to local radio programming.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said its members working for BBC England are being balloted over proposals to share local radio programming across the network.
The union said that, under original proposals, BBC local radio stations would share programmes with neighbouring stations after 2pm on weekdays and at weekends, which the NUJ said would lead to a loss of posts and journalists having to re-apply for their own jobs.
A compromise put forward by the BBC which the union said would have seen less sharing was rejected by 70 per cent of NUJ members.
The union said it now has no option but to move to a formal ballot.
All the UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023
Tuesday 31 January 2023 23:00 , Liam James
Joe Sommerlad maps out a month that will see firefighters, teachers, train drivers and ambulance workers alike walk out in rows over pay and conditions:
All the UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023
Two unions join for Environment Agency workers strike
Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:00 , Liam James
Two unions representing Environment Agency workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.
Members of Unison and Prospect working in areas including river inspection, flood forecasting, coastal risk management and pollution control will walk out for 12 hours on 8 February.
The unions said that for 12 hours either side of the walkout, Environment Agency employees will also escalate their ongoing work-to-rule by withdrawing from incident response rotas.
Where there is a genuine threat to life or property from something like a major flood, officers will step in as emergency “life and limb cover” has been agreed with agency managers.
Environment Agency staff belonging to Unison took strike action earlier in January. Now their colleagues who are in Prospect will join them for the first joint strike.
School closures subject to heads’ discretion
Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:00 , Liam James
Teachers in England and Wales who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) will take part in walkouts on Wednesday which threaten disruption to more than 23,000 schools.
The walkouts, which could see more than 100,000 teachers go on strike, is the first of seven days of action planned by the NEU in February and March. Some schools are due to close their doors to all pupils on Wednesday as a result of the strikes, with children told to stay at home.
Other schools will be partially closed so they can prioritise children who would benefit most from in-person teaching, such as those sitting exams as well as vulnerable pupils and key workers’ children. In some schools, there may be little or no impact from strike action and they will remain open.
Headteachers will carry out risk assessments to work out whether their schools can open safely with reduced staffing numbers. The decision on whether to close fully or partially is down to individual headteachers.
All the trains cancelled for strikes
Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:00 , Liam James
Train drivers from the Aslef and RMT unions will strike tomorrow, taking the bulk of Britain’s rail network offline.
No trains will run on Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Heathrow Express, London Northwestern Railway, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, TransPennine Express, West Midlands Railway.
Other affected lines are:
Great Western Railway – An extremely limited service will operate, and only between 7.30am and 7.30pm. The only routes served by trains will be: Between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads; between Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff; between Reading and Basingstoke, Oxford and Redhill; between Swindon and Westbury; between Exeter St Davids and Exmouth and Paignton; between Plymouth and Gunnislake; and between Penzance and St Ives.
Greater Anglia – A very limited service will operate with one train per hour in each direction between London Liverpool Street and each of Norwich, Colchester, Cambridge and Southend Victoria. Services will start from 8am and finish earlier than usual. No other routes will be served by trains.
London North Eastern Railway – An extremely limited timetable will operate. It will run just five trains in each direction between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, with a handful of other services.
South Western Railway – The operator intends to run a full service on the mainland but there will be no trains on the Isle of Wight.
Stansted Express – One train per hour will run in each direction between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport.
Wednesday’s strike is over pay and working conditions. It will be followed by another walkout on Friday.
Tens of thousands of teachers 'joined union for strike’
Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:00 , Liam James
Tens of thousands more teachers have joined the UK’s largest education union to take part in strikes on Wednesday, a union boss has said.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said ministers should be concerned about the 40,000 new sign-ups to the union since the teacher strikes were announced a fortnight ago.
He said the new members, of which the vast majority are teachers, are joining the union “because they want to be part of the action”.
Mr Courtney told the PA news agency: “That’s a very big conscious decision to make, to join us at this moment. If I was the government, I’d be worried about that.”
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the NEU, said the union is expecting “lots of schools” to close in areas where the NEU has a large representation – like London. Downing Street has conceded that Wednesday’s mass strike action will be “very difficult” for the public.
Britain set for biggest day of strikes in more than a decade
Tuesday 31 January 2023 18:00 , Liam James
More than half a million workers are set to walk out tomorrow on Britain’s biggest day of strikes in more than a decade.
Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions will join picket lines as disputes over pay and conditions rage.
Meanwhile, protests will be held across the country against the government’s controversial plans for a new law on minimum service levels during strikes.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said Wednesday will be a “really important day” for workers and members of the public to show support for those taking action to defend pay, jobs and services, as well as for the right to strike.