Black Country businesses and residents will be hit by festive strikes as "the whole country wants a pay rise"

With so many workers from different walks of life going on strike this month for many it seems "the whole country wants a pay rise."

RMT workers striking in Birmingham
RMT workers striking in Birmingham

Black Country businesses and residents are being warned to plan ahead and expect disruption with rail workers, posties, civil servants, nurses, midwives and ambulance drivers all taking industrial action.

Striking Midland Metro workers won a 20 per cent pay rise last month which will strengthen the resolve of every other union fighting a dispute.

With the Fire Brigade Union beginning to ballot members and lecturers and refuse workers walking out all year comparisons have been made to the 1970s.

Associate Professor Steven McCabe, a political economist at Birmingham City University, told the Express & Star: “That we’re experiencing a 2022 version of the 1978 ‘winter of discontent’ is beyond doubt.

“The range of sectors which are engaged in industrial action to improve pay and conditions is dizzying.

"For any government to be beset with industrial conflict will always create challenges. Solving disputed in keys sectors will always take time and energy.

"However, at present, what appears to be occurring whilst not coordinated, certainly has a feel of unions believing that this is their moment to address grievances by members who feel they have become poorer whilst the bank accounts of the richest have swelled."

Publican Stav Smith, who recently took over the Old Crown, Halesowen, warned the rail strikes could be the final nail in the coffin for some pubs.

He said: “The rail strikes could cause some pubs to go out of business. We all rely on a profitable December to get through a lean January. The strikes are working, people cannot afford to get taxis everywhere and custom will be hit hard.

“Then there is staff not being able to get into work or having to leave early. We all know the profits these big companies make why don’t they just pay the rail staff and be done with it.”

“The posties being strike is stressing me out too, we’ve got a lot of admin to sort out because we’ve just taken over the pub, everything gets put back if things aren’t signed on time.”

Peter Connolly, director of Nortons Digbeth, said: "Many of our customers will be travelling in by public transport over the coming weekends and obviously, any disruption to travel is going to affect our business negatively.

"Hospitality businesses and music venues such as Nortons have struggled enormously over the last few years. Between covid lockdowns and restrictions, curfews, the cost-of-living crisis, and the energy bills crisis, it feels like the last time we could operate without being in the midst of some kind of crisis was in 2019."

He added: "However, we also understand that disruption is entirely the point of a strike. We are an independent business in the heart of working-class Birmingham. These are hard-working men and women defending their working terms and conditions and we respect that. As a living wage employer, we understand that creating jobs that are better paid, more stable and more meaningful for employees is good for business."

Sharon Stephens is concerned she will not get to see her father before Christmas due to the rail strikes.

She said: “I’ve always seen my dad the week before Christmas, I go to his home in Wednesfield and there is a lovely atmosphere but if the staff can’t get in because of the rail strikes they might not be able to allow visitors, not that I can get there anyway if the strike goes ahead on December 16 and 17.”

Electrician Dave Smith is planning ahead to ensure he does not miss anything important due to the widespread industrial action.

He said: "I’ll be affected by the train strikes for work & Christmas parties. And by the nurses strikes for GP appointments - but I still support the unions fighting for fair pay for their members.

"We called for them, they deserve to be able to pay their mortgage & electricity bills. The whole country deserves a pay rise."

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