Wave of strikes to hit rail, post and airline industries

Updated: 

A wave of strikes will be launched by thousands of workers this week, hitting rail, post and airline industries in the run-up to Christmas.

A series of disputes have flared over issues including jobs, pay, pensions and safety involving some of the country's biggest trade unions.

Officials dismissed any suggestions that the strikes were co-ordinated or part of a conspiracy to bring the Government down.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Southern Railway will strike on Monday and Tuesday in a long-running dispute over the role of conductors.

Coupled with a continuing ban on overtime by drivers in Aslef, the action will cause fresh chaos for Southern's 300,000 passengers.

Members of the Communication Workers Union will strike for five days, including Christmas Eve, in protest at job losses, the closure of a final salary pension scheme and the franchising of Crown Post Offices.

The union will stage a demonstration outside the headquarters of the Business Department on Monday at the start of the strikes.

British Airways cabin crew in the Unite union are due to strike on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a row over pay.

Unite members employed by Swissport as baggage handlers and other ground staff at 18 airports are set to walk out on Friday and Saturday over pay, although talks will be held on Tuesday at the conciliation service Acas.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash told the Press Association: "We are a serious trade union dealing with serious issues around safety on the railways. That is our absolute priority.

"RMT is not party to any Trotskyist conspiracy to bring down the Government. Our conductor members on Southern are on strike this week in defence of the safety of the travelling public and that remains the focus of the entire union."

Southern was accused of cancelling trains and blaming industrial action even though drivers were available, for the second weekend in a row. The company denied Aslef's claim.

The CWU said hundreds of Crown Post Offices will be hit by its industrial action, involving around 3,500 workers.

General secretary Dave Ward accused the management of rejecting a peace offer and warned of a continuing closure programme which would mean that the Post Office will cease to exist on high streets.

Kevin Gilliland, Post Office, group network and sales director, said: "Any action will affect fewer than 300 of our branches, and many of these will be open to maintain services for customers preparing for Christmas.

"It will be business as usual in almost all of our network, with over 50,000 Post Office people on hand to support customers as they make their preparations for Christmas.

"We are disappointed that, whilst we've been holding discussions with the union throughout this week and have made it clear we remain open to further, formal talks at the most senior level, they are continuing to cause concern to customers during the festive season."

The strikes do not involve Royal Mail employees.

Members of the Transport Salaried Staffs Association and RMT on London Underground are continuing with an overtime ban in a dispute over jobs and ticket office closures.

Pilots at Virgin Atlantic will start a "work to contract" action from Friday in a row over union recognition.