Royal Mail workers and university lecturers will continue with a strike on Friday in long running disputes over pay, pensions, jobs and conditions.
Members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and University and College Union (UCU) walked out on Thursday for 48 hours, with more action planned in the coming weeks.
Picket lines were again mounted outside universities and Royal Mail centres across the country on Black Friday- one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said 70,000 university staff were on strike on Thursday, adding: “They will no longer accept falling pay, pension cuts, brutal workloads and gig-economy working conditions. If vice-chancellors doubted the determination of university staff to save our sector then today has been a rude awakening for them.
‘We have been overwhelmed by the support of thousands of students who have joined us on the picket lines. They recognise that vice-chancellors are wrecking the sector for staff and students alike and are determined to stand with us and fix it.
‘Our members deserve a proper pay rise and the money is there to deliver it. Vice-chancellors now need to urgently address the concerns of staff otherwise our 70,000 members will escalate this dispute into next year”
University employers said they were taking steps to mitigate any disruption adding that the union was seeking an “unrealistic” 13.6% pay rise which would cost institutions around £1.5 billion.
The CWU has rejected Royal Mail’s final offer and is pressing ahead with more strikes, including today and on Christmas Eve.
A CWU spokesperson said: “Millions of customers and thousands of small businesses rely on the quality services Royal Mail workers provide at Christmas.
“But Royal Mail bosses are ignoring those responsibilities and ploughing ahead with plans that would wreck the livelihoods of their entire workforce.
“We call on the government, media and all small businesses to demand that Royal Mail takes a mature approach to this dispute.
“Thousands of workers aren’t striking at Christmas for fun – they want to reach an agreement.
“But they won’t be walked all over and have their lives ruined by the reckless, careless behaviour of the employer.
“Until Royal Mail sees some sense, this dispute will carry on.”
Responding to CWU claims about how postal workers were being treated, a Royal Mail spokesperson said: “We have a zero tolerance to any form of bullying or harassment.
“Over the last four months we have witnessed some awful behaviours on the picket line, including allegations of racist and sexist behaviour.
“In each instance we have taken swift action to appropriately discipline the individuals involved.
“We encourage anyone with concerns to come forward – we have a confidential whistleblowing process in place and will support any colleague who comes forward.”
Nick Hollamby, a 56-year-old CWU area representative, said he was on a London picket line because management had put forward proposals that were “totally unacceptable”, adding that he understood the public’s frustration at the strikes falling over Black Friday and the run-up to Christmas.
Lloyd Harris, CWU branch secretary for Mount Pleasant Delivery Office in London, said: “At the moment, Royal Mail are trying to drive our terms and conditions down, they are trying to get this work done on the cheap.”