Nearly 200,000 UK workers are on Black Friday strike

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The cost of living crisis in the UK is already taking the shine out of Black Friday. Now, the annual shopping bonanza faces an added threat of strikes that could disrupt deliveries, reduce online sales and deal another blow to the slumping economy.

Around 235,000 workers went on strike across the UK this week, spanning schools, universities and postal services.

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Workers are demanding better wages and working conditions as they struggle with rising food and energy bills.

The strike by up to 115,000 Royal Mail workers on Thursday and Friday threatens to disrupt Black Friday sales and deliveries at a crucial time of year for retailers.

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Small businesses in particular are suffering “huge damage” as a result of the postal strikes, as they “rely on an efficient courier service for much of their business,” according to a statement posted on LinkedIn and signed by Murray Lambell, eBay UK General Manager Martin McTague, President of the Federation of Small Businesses, and Michelle Ovens, founder of the campaign group Small Business Britain.

Postal workers are planning new strikes for Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, following strikes in August and September.

“Customers should expect delays to items posted before, during or shortly after the strike,” Royal Mail said in a statement.

Strikes have swept the UK this year as workers grapple with a worsening cost of living crisis and an economy slipping into recession.

Wages have stagnated and failed to keep pace with inflation, now at a 41-year high, setting the stage for clashes between employers and employees.

These clashes have already caused widespread disruptions, including to train travel, and are now spilling over into even more sectors, such as education and healthcare.

More than 70,000 university workers went on strike over wages, working conditions and pensions on Thursday and Friday at 150 universities across the UK.

The strike is the largest in British higher education history, affecting more than 2.5 million students, according to the University and College Union, which organized the strike. Another strike is scheduled for November 30.

In Scotland, all schools across the continent were closed on Thursday after up to 50,000 teachers walked out on the first day of a nationwide pay strike in nearly 40 years, according to the Educational Institute of Scotland, a trade union.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing, which has more than 300,000 members, said on Friday that nurses would hold a two-day strike in December – the first in the union’s 106-year history – in support of its call for higher wages. Unison, a union representing nearly half a million health care workers, will complete its own strike ballot on Friday.

According to the Office of National Statistics, 356,000 days were lost to strikes in August, not far from the previous record set in July 2014, when 386,000 days were lost. That number dropped to 205,000 in September.

Christmas deliveries, jobs at risk

But the situation could get worse again before it gets better, with disruptions stretching beyond Black Friday and well into the holiday season. The strike will also increase losses faced by businesses and could lead to more job cuts.

The RMT, the UK’s biggest transport union, on Tuesday announced four 48-hour strikes in December and January after failed talks with Network Rail. Network Rail’s chief negotiator, Tim Shoveller, said the strike made the “precarious financial hole” the company finds itself in bigger and “the task of finding a solution increasingly difficult”.

Drivers for Best Food Logistics, which deliver fresh food to restaurants including KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut, also voted to strike, according to a statement from the GMB Union on Thursday. No dates have been announced yet and a company spokesperson told CNN Business that it is committed to “achieving a way forward”.

The Union of Communication Workers (CWU), which represents the striking postmen, announced additional strikes on December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24, which could compromise Christmas deliveries. Royal Mail says it has yet to be formally notified of these dates.

Relations between the company and the union deteriorated after they failed to reach an agreement on wages and changes in working conditions during negotiations that lasted seven months.

According to Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson, the strikes have added £100m ($121.3m) to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year and could lead to more job cuts in addition to the 10,000 already announced.

“The CWU’s planned strike action is holding back Christmas to rescue our customers, businesses and families across the country and is putting its own members’ jobs at risk,” Thompson said in a statement.

Also on Friday, thousands of Amazon warehouse workers plan to take part in protests and strikes in about 30 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, India, Australia, France, Germany and South Africa, according to UNI Global. Union.

This is the third year that the Make Amazon Pay campaign has organized a global day of action on Black Friday. The protests that will take place between shifts at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry, England, on Friday night are not expected to affect Black Friday deliveries.

Source: CNN Brasil

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