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No 10 urges public sector unions to call off ‘unnecessary’ strikes

Aslef picket line at Euston Station, London (Victoria Jones/PA)
Aslef picket line at Euston Station, London (Victoria Jones/PA)

Downing Street has urged public sector unions heading for a series of strikes to call off their “unnecessary” industrial action and return to the negotiating table.

As the Fire Brigades Union became the latest union to begin balloting its members, No 10 expressed concern at the impact multiple strikes would have on the public as Christmas approaches.

It follows the announcement this week that ambulance workers in three unions have voted to strike over pay and concerns about staffing levels.

A paramedic walks past a line of ambulances outside the Royal London Hospital, in London
Ambulance workers have this week voted for strike action (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The Royal College of Nursing is also staging two strikes this month while industrial action is continuing on the railways and among postal workers.

GMB national secretary Andy Prendergast – whose union represents some of the ambulance staff concerned – refused to rule out coordinated action with other unions.

“We will be talking to other unions… we will be looking to make sure that this has the maximum impact,” he told Sky News.

“We will be making sure that emergencies are covered, but ultimately, the Government needs to listen.

“The public of Britain deserve better, the NHS members deserve better, we need to see something happen very fast.”

However, Downing Street urged the unions to consider the impact on the public before pressing ahead with further strike action.

Staff nurses on a hospital ward
Nurses are due to stage two days of strike action (Victoria Jones/PA)

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are concerned about the impact strikes by multiple unions will have on the people of this country as we head into the Christmas period.

“We recognise that these are challenging economic times but public sector pay awards must be affordable for the taxpayer.

“We want them to keep engaging with employers, to keep talking so that we can come up with a resolution and put an end to some of this unnecessary strike action.”

In the Commons, Transport Minister Huw Merriman appealed the rail unions to call off their action over the Christmas period warning of the impact of fresh stoppages on businesses as well as families hoping to get together.

“It is still possible for the unions to take the strike action down so that people can get to see their loved ones across the country, businesses can reopen and recover after the terrible time that they have had,” he said.

“December for many companies is their time, it’s make or break time, if they don’t get a December in they may not see January.”

However, Mr Prendergast warned that public sector workers were fed up of being “talked down to” by ministers who refused to listen to their concerns.

“Even Winston Churchill talked about the right to strike being a fundamental one, and yet we have a load of public schoolboys who run the Government who quite frankly are not interested in listening,” he said.

“They have to start listening. This is an issue that affects every single person in Britain. So many of us rely on the NHS.”