December strikes present business challenge during the festive period

Mon 5 Dec 2022
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

UK strikes - train strikes feared

The lead up to Christmas will see multiple strikes overlapping to disrupt companies at the busiest time of year for many businesses.

Workers across the logistics sector are undertaking industrial action in pursuit of wages that match the spiralling level of inflation, and to protect working practices.

Here, the IOE&IT Daily Update rounds up the latest news on industrial action and how it impacts the crucial Christmas run-up.

Off the rails

Members of the RMT union are set to undertake eight days of strike action this month and into January after failure of negotiations, reports the Telegraph.

An offer made by railway groups was rejected over the weekend, although an improved offer has since been made according to the Independent.

The biggest strike to date will involve 40,000 workers with some lines being effectively out of action for a month from the middle of December.

According to The Times, internal government estimates suggest that the rail industry alone will lose up to £260m due to industrial action, and the hospitality industry has warned that it could miss out on £1.5bn in Christmas business.

The railways will shut down on December 13, 14, 16 and 17, and there will also be a ban on overtime from December 18 to January 2 and further walkouts on January 3, 4, 6 and 7.

Strike action is also being planned by Eurostar security staff on 16, 17, 22, and 23 December, reports Euronews.

Lost in the post

Backlogs of undelivered post and packages are already building up at sorting offices, as months of industrial action persists, resulting in post not being delivered for Christmas.

Staff told iNews that some sorting offices are so full that parcels are having to be stored in lorries and trailers.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) is midway through a series of strikes involving 120,000 workers running up to Christmas, according to the Guardian.

Business impact

These rolling strikes are continuing to hit UK businesses, according to new government figures.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed one in eight UK companies suffered disruption in October from strikes across public transport, postal services, telecoms and other sectors.

Thirteen per cent of businesses reported some kind of impact from industrial action, such as being unable to access goods or services which they needed.

The impact was typically greatest for small businesses and those in the retail and construction sectors, reports Reuters.

Other causes of disruption included staff having to work from home or being unable to perform their duties.

More generally, businesses are anxious that supply chain chaos will dampen their Christmas sales according to a survey conducted by consultancy BDO, as reported by City AM.

Port diversion

Autumn strike action at Liverpool and Felixstowe ports saw vessels shift to other UK ports to avoid disruption, reports Port Technology International.

Analysis from FourKites – a supply chain monitoring platform – found Liverpool shipments decreased by 58% week-over-week during the week of 11 September before the first strike began.

This picture continued during other strike weeks and culminated with the third strike on 24 October, when FourKites registered a severe downfall of arrivals 92% week-over-week.

Felixstowe saw a similar pattern, according to Logistics Manager, with port arrivals, which previously made up 20% of all UK port arrivals, dropping to 0%.

The time shipments spent at Felixstowe, almost doubled during the strike from 5.5 days to an average of 10.3 days, dropping back to 3.8 days after the initial strike ended.

US strikes

The US government has intervened to try and solve a crippling rail stoppage, with political leaders agreeing to impose terms to end the long-lasting stalemate in negotiations between rail carriers and unions, reports the Loadstar.

President Joe Biden signed an eleventh-hour deal on Friday to end a difficult rail dispute that he said “would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time on the calendar”, reports the FT.

Technology companies supplying critical semiconductor chips to the economy were so spooked by the prospect of rail strikes that they started shipping by trucks, DHL Global Forwarding told CNBC.

Other sectors have also been hit by industrial action over pay and sick leave that has been rumbling on for months.