Strikes will cause ‘disruption and delays’ over Christmas but govt approach is ‘sensitive’, cabinet minister says | Political News

A cabinet minister has admitted there will be “disruption and delays” over Christmas as the UK braces for a wave of strikes – but insisted the government’s approach is “sensitive and balanced”.

On Wednesday, Border Force staff became the latest workers to announce industrial action over the festive period, with rail workers, bus drivers, nurses, paramedics and postal workers among those already walking out in the coming weeks in a dispute over pay and conditions.

The government has been criticized for failing to stop the strikes, with Union bosses accusing ministers of stonewalling requests for meaningful pay talks.

Politics live: Strikes every day before Christmas

Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, told Sky News that the strikes were “disappointing” but giving into the union’s demands would cost the taxpayer £28bn and “you can’t spend your way out of inflation”.

She said “we do expect there will be disruption and delays”, following warnings from airports about flight cancellations.

But she said 2,000 soldiers would be drafted in to help with Border Force roles and “we should be extremely grateful to them”.

With only one day left in December when there are no strikes – the 12th – it was put to the cabinet minister that general strikes bring down governments, as seen in the 1970s.

Ms Keegan said: “Well, I mean, that has happened in history for sure.”

However, she insisted the government was taking the right approach by not interfering in the pay negotiations, saying the disputes were between “unions and the paymasters”.

Unions are demanding pay rises above or in line with inflation as the UK is gripped by a recession and the cost of living rises.

Read More:
Which sectors are striking and why

Ms Keegan said she sympathized with striking workers like firefighters and nurses, who have said they are using food banks following a decade of real-terms pay cuts.

However she suggested giving into their demands would make inflation worse – something unions have disputed.

“Inflation is affecting every single person, not just in this country, actually, in many, many other countries,” she said.

“If inflation is high, everybody feels poorer. And that’s what we’re trying to avoid.”


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