BRITAIN FACES STRIKE CHAOS

The National Education Union (NEU), which is the biggest teaching union, has warned that it plans to ballot 450,000 of its members unless it receives a pay increase in line with inflation…reports Asian Lite News

Britain could face further strike chaos after unions representing teachers and NHS workers warned of potential action over pay.

The National Education Union (NEU), which is the biggest teaching union, has warned that it plans to ballot 450,000 of its members unless it receives a pay increase in line with inflation.

Strike action could take place in schools in England in autumn, the union told the Observer.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said the union will ballot its members unless the Government offers around the three per cent rise it touted earlier this year.

He said: “If there is no significant improvement on 3 per cent – which will leave an 8 per cent gap with inflation this year alone – we cannot avoid a ballot. The mood among teachers has changed. Last year the issue was mainly workload. This year it is workload and pay.

“Teachers are doing calculations to see what their hourly pay works out at. Pay is already down 20 per cent on 2010. The strains are showing. One in eight of new graduate teachers are leaving in their first year.”

Millions of NHS workers are set to receive their annual pay offer soon and there are fears that it will fall short of inflation, which is running at 9.2 per cent.

Unison, the biggest union representing NHS staff, has warned that the pay offer could lead to a mass exodus of staff combined with industrial action in hospitals.

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea added: “The government has a simple choice. Either it makes a sensible pay award, investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients.”

“Or it risks a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.”

It comes as more than 40,000 members of RMT will stage 24-hour walkouts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday in a dispute over proposed job losses and their demand for pay hikes that will keep pace with inflation.

Only one in five trains will run on the three strike days, but services will also be hugely disrupted during the rest of the week.

The Transport Secretary has accused the biggest rail workers’ union of “punishing millions of innocent people” by pressing ahead with next week’s train strikes.

Grant Shapps said the Rail, Maritime and Transport union had repeatedly been urged not to go ahead with the “damaging” strikes and instead concentrate on negotiating a deal.

He said the strikes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday next week risk disrupting a range of sectors across the country, causing “misery” to the general public.

He said: “Sadly they have ignored these requests time and again, and we are now on the cusp of major disruption which will cause misery for people right across the country.

“Many people who do not get paid if they can’t get to work face losing money at a time they simply can’t afford to.

“Children sitting exams will face the extra distraction of changing their travel plans.

“And vulnerable people trying to attend long-awaited hospital appointments may have no choice but to cancel.

“By carrying out this action the RMT is punishing millions of innocent people, instead of calmly discussing the sensible and necessary reforms we need to make in order to protect our rail network.”

High inflation

Food price inflation in Britain is likely to peak at up to 15% this summer and will remain at high levels into 2023, a prominent grocery industry researcher warned, dealing another blow to the country’s cash-strapped consumers.

In its latest report, the Institute of Grocery Distribution (IGD) said the most vulnerable households in Britain would be hit hardest by the spike in food and drink prices.

Surging prices are already causing the biggest squeeze on household incomes since at least the 1950s in Britain, where grocery price inflation hit 7% over the four weeks to May 15, its highest level in 13 years, according to industry data.

Britain’s official rate of inflation hit a 40-year high of 9% in April and is forecast to surpass 10% later in 2022, when regulated energy tariffs are due to jump by a further 40%.

To tackle inflation, the Bank of England looks set to raise interest rates on Thursday for the fifth time since December.

However, that will mean higher mortgage costs for many households.

The IGD predicted the average monthly spend on groceries for a typical family of four would reach 439 pounds ($529) in January 2023, up from 396 pounds in January 2022.

It expects inflation to be most evident in prices for meat, cereal products, dairy, fruit and vegetables, with products that rely on wheat for feed, such as white meats, likely to see prices soar in the short term.

The researcher forecast high levels of food inflation would likely last until mid-2023, highlighting several factors including the impact of the conflict in Ukraine, pre-existing supply chain challenges, the limited effectiveness of monetary and fiscal policy and impacts still being felt from Brexit.

“From our research, we’re unlikely to see the cost of living pressures easing anytime soon,” said IGD chief economist James Walton. “We are already seeing households skipping meals – a clear indictor of food stress.”

Britain’s four biggest grocers, market leader Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all declined to comment on the 15% figure.

In response to the crisis, Britons are trading down in both stores and products, switching from mainstream supermarkets to discounters and from branded to lower priced private label products.

They are also cutting back on fuel purchases as they reduce the number of car journeys they make, cancelling streaming services and cancelling repair warranties on domestic appliances. 

Poundland owner Pepco said last week Britons were even reining in spending on essential items.

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