Millions of Britons are set to endure more travel chaos as thousands of militant workers continue with their crippling campaign of strike action.
Commuters nationwide face a week of hell beginning tomorrow as railway workers stage their 11th day of industrial action since July.
The carnage, triggered by unionists at the RMT, will see just one-in-five trains operating on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday.
Meanwhile, England fans hoping to jet out to Qatar later this month to watch the World Cup could be left heartbroken as imminent strike action at Heathrow could see them missing the Three Lions’ opening game.
More than 700 transport, cargo and ground staff at the airport will be going on strike in a bitter pay row from November 18 to November 21.
The walk outs are expected to cause mayhem and could mean that jet-setting England fans may not make it out in time to watch Gareth Southgate’s men as they take on Iran on November 21.
And in a fresh blow, there is now the looming threat that thousands of shop workers at Asda could go on strike as staff demand pay rises to help them cope with the cost of living crisis.
This week’s strike misery began today for commuters travelling between Birmingham, the Midlands and the capital.
Railway stations across the UK will be hit by three days of strike action, beginning tomorrow. Pictured is a closed platform at Victoria railway station in June
Workers from the RMT are rallying to stage the walk out in a long-running bitter dispute over pay. Striking workers are pictured at a picket line in June
Only a fifth of the nation’s railway services are expected to be running during the industrial action on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday
It will mean a week of hell for commuters who will have to rely on replacement bus services. People pictured waiting for buses at Victoria station during a strike in July
West Midlands Trains and London Northwestern Railway (LNR) staff who are members of the Transport Salaried Staff Association (TSSA) union downed tools this morning ahead.
It came ahead of the bigger national action which begins tomorrow and carries on into Monday and Wednesday, with a fifth of services will running over the three days.
The action has been orchestrated by the RMT, bringing the total number of strikes to 11 since July. Trains on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday could also be down by a quarter due to the knock-on effects.
But Union bosses are said to be weighing up yet more industrial action for the end of the month, which could soon trigger more railway mayhem.
There are hopes of a reprieve after new Transport Secretary Mark Harper said he would be ‘very happy to meet the trade unions’, marking a dramatic shift from his predecessor Grant Shapps, who flat out refused such meetings.
Mr Harper said: ‘The negotiations are obviously going to take place between the unions and the employers: Network Rail and the train operating companies.
‘But I think it’s helpful for ministers to meet trade union leaders and to listen to their concerns.
The latest wave of industrial action on the railway is the 11th day of strikes held by the RMT. Pictured: King’s Cross station
Saturday’s railway strike will see fewer trains running, with those that are operating beginning later and finishing earlier. London Victoria station is pictured in June
The misery will continue for those seeking to go abroad, with strike action planned at Heathrow. Pictured, commuters queuing for a bus in London during the railway strikes in June
‘I’m very happy to do that and my department will be reaching out to those trade union leaders in due course.’
The travel misery will first hit rugby fans hoping to watch Wales and New Zealand in Cardiff on Saturday, while also putting a dampener on Bonfire Night celebrations.
Network Rail has urged passengers only to travel if absolutely necessary, warning that just one in five trains will be running while the strikes take place – and only between 7.30am and 6.30pm.
Rugby fans attending the Wales versus New Zealand game at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday have also been told to avoid travel by train.
Up to 35,000 people normally travel into Cardiff by train for international rugby matches, with more than 20,000 getting a return home.
Due to the strike, inbound capacity by rail in the hours leading up to kick-off at 3.15pm will be heavily reduced – two thirds lower than usual – and there will be no trains scheduled from Cardiff after the match.
It comes just days before football fans hoping to fly out to the Middle East will be met with their own travel nightmare at Heathrow.
Beginning on November 18, the strike action at the travel hub – Europe’s busiest airport – is expected to cause widespread chaos, triggering delays and disruption at Terminals 2, 3, and 4 – the terminal that Qatar Airways flies from.
The action is being staged by the Unite union. The group’s regional officer Kevin Hall said: ‘Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption and delays across Heathrow, especially for football supporters travelling to the World Cup.
The Heathrow strikes will take place on November 18 to November 21 – the day of England’s first game at the World Cup in Qatar. Pictured is the squad at Euro 2020
The strikes at Heathrow will cause carnage for football fans seeking to fly out to watch the World Cup. Pictured: Lusail Stadium at sunrise on June 20, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.
Heathrow says it is in discussions with airline partners to try and mitigate the strike impact. Visitors take photos with a FIFA World Cup sign in Doha on October 30
‘However, this dispute is entirely of dnata’s and Menzies’ own making and they know what to do to resolve this, which is to make our members a fair pay offer.’
The walk-out has been organised by activists from the Unite union and involves workers from Menzies and dnata UK.
Other airlines anticipated to be hit by the walk-out include Virgin, Singapore Airlines, Cathay-Pacific and Emirates.
Dnata has offered its workers a five per cent increase, while the offers for Menzies workers vary between two and six per cent.
But Unite said that all the offers are ‘far below the real rate of inflation’, which currently stands at 12.3 per cent.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Our members at Dnata and Menzies undertake highly challenging roles and are simply seeking a decent pay rise.
‘Both companies are highly profitable and can fully afford to make a fair pay increase.
‘The workers at Heathrow will have Unite’s complete support during this dispute.’
Football fans looking to jet off to Qatar to watch the World Cup could face travel chaos after airport workers voted to back strike action this month. Pictured is a file photo of queues at Heathrow Airport
Qatar Airways, which has scheduled an extra 10 flights a week during the World Cup, is expected to face severe disruption. Pictured is a Qatar Airways stewardess
Alex Doisneau, managing director of dnata UK, overseeing airport operations, said: ‘It is disappointing that Unite plans to progress with this costly industrial action, despite our offer to staff of an award which, with previous increases, amounts to a pay rise of 15.5 per cent since December 2021. This is in line with inflation and amongst the best in the industry,’ Alex added.
‘We would like to reassure our customers, partners and passengers that we are implementing contingency plans to minimise disruption to our operations.
‘The union’s proposition is unrealistic and doesn’t reflect the challenging economic environment we find ourselves in as a business.
‘Despite our sustained commitment to the UK and its communities, the impact of the pandemic, rapid inflation and other local market conditions mean that our UK airport operations business is now making a financial loss each month.
‘The increase in salary suggested by Unite is irresponsible and would undoubtedly impact our business’ ability to operate in the best interest of our workforce in the long term.
‘Our offer has been overwhelmingly accepted by other staff at the airport and we remain committed to reaching a meaningful and mutually acceptable agreement for all parties.’
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham, pictured, insisted the strikes were about ‘defending and enhancing’ the pay of the union’s members
Phil Lloyd, senior vice-president UK, Menzies Aviation, said a pay offer of seven per cent had been implemented in January and insisted the company wished to continue an ‘open and honest’ consultation to make ‘a further increase in 2022’.
He added: ‘Unite are taking extreme and unnecessary steps by threatening industrial action at Heathrow Airport and they are refusing to engage in further meaningful discussions with Menzies and other parties as part of the collective bargaining agreement.
‘Given Unite membership is approximately less than 15 per cent of our ground services workforce at Heathrow Airport, we are confident our contingency planning will ensure airline partners and passengers will not be disrupted should industrial action go ahead.’
A spokeswoman for Heathrow said the airport was ‘aware’ of the strike action by the workers from the two companies and added they were in ‘discussions’ with airline partners about contingency plans that can be implemented.
‘Our priority is to ensure passengers are not disrupted by airline ground handler shortages,’ the official added.
And in a fresh blow, it was today revealed that scores of caterers, cleaners and other staff based at the head office of a Government department are to strike in disputes over pay and health and safety.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union working at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in London will walk out for five days in the coming weeks.
Rail, Maritime and Transport union general secretary Mick Lynch (pictured on the picket line alongside rail workers on October 8) criticised the Government’s plan to introduce minimum service levels during strikes by transport workers
Caterers employed by Aramark and cleaners, security guards, reception workers, post and porterage staff employed by ISS will take action on November 16, 23 and 30, and December 7 and 14.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: ‘A recent survey showed a third of our members were skipping meals because they couldn’t afford to buy food, so it would be no surprise if these hard-working caterers would struggle to afford the food they serve to others.
‘We demand they receive an above-inflation pay rise to help them through the cost-of-living crisis and beyond.’
The Aramark employees are in dispute over pay, while the ISS staff are taking action over health and safety protocols to keep them safe during the Covid pandemic and beyond.
The news came as it was confirmed earlier this week that staff at the Co-op’s only UK coffin manufacturing factory announced their second week of strike action in a similar pay war.
About 50 craft workers at the Co-op Funeralcare facility in Bogmoor Place, Glasgow, started a week of action on Monday.
But in a further blow for the funeral industry, Unite union announced a further week of strike action would take place from November 14.
Speaking from the picket line, regional officer Willie Thomson said staff had been ‘forced’ to take action after voting overwhelmingly to reject a previous pay offer.
Coffinmakers at the Co-op Funeralcare, one of the UK’s biggest funeral directors, again on November 14 in their second walk out this month, bringing production to a ‘complete stop’. File picture of a funeral director inspecting coffins
A pay row is brewing at Asda as workers there are demanding a salary increase to help off-set the cost-of-living crisis they are facing. Pictured is a worker pushing trollies at a store in West London
Furious workers said that it was less than half of the current rate of inflation.
Speaking to BBC Scotland, Mr Thomson said: ‘The offer is significantly below inflation which is a real time pay cut.
‘The employer is not giving enough to allow them to cope with increased costs.’
Meanwhile, it was revealed today that a pay row is now brewing at supermarket giant Asda as unions continue to press for extra help to help workers cope with the cost-of-living crisis.
The GMB union is holding a consultative ballot of its members after accusing Asda of refusing to increase basic pay of £10.10 an hour in line with the other supermarkets.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: ‘Asda’s retail workers are now seeing their hourly rate of pay slip to the bottom of the pile – again.
‘Other companies see the need to protect staff from the cost-of-living crisis by offering increased pay rises and staff discounts.
‘It’s time Asda bosses took a leaf out of their book and invested in staff.’
An Asda spokesman said: ‘We understand the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on our colleagues and have made two separate pay investments this year to increase retail colleague pay by nearly eight per cent – taking the rate to £10.10 per hour.
‘We were also one of the few supermarkets to pay colleagues a bonus this year, worth an average of £413 for a full-time hourly paid colleague.
‘We expect to be able to confirm our 2023 pay rates to colleagues in Q1 next year.’