Strikes – latest: Teachers and train drivers join biggest walkout in decade

Teachers and train drivers are among half a million workers walking out today on the biggest strike day seen in Britain for more than a decade.

Civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards will join picket lines, while protests are set to be held across the country against the government’s controversial plans to legally enforce minimum service levels during strikes.

Downing Street said 600 military personnel as well as civil servants and volunteers across government have been trained to fill the gaps in public services.

Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, said a petition of more than 250,000 signatures opposing new so-called “anti-strike” laws will be delivered to Downing Street.

Britain’s public service workers are snared in long-running disputes over pay and conditions after a decade of cuts and pay freezes was followed by punishingly high inflation.

Around 200,000 teachers with the National Education Union are joining walkouts tomorrow for the first of their seven strike days. Some 23,000 schools and potentially millions of pupils will be affected.

Key Points

  • Britain set for biggest day of strikes in more than a decade

  • Tens of thousands of teachers ‘joined union in time for strike’

  • All the trains cancelled for strikes

  • School closures subject to heads’ discretion

Mass strikes leave Paddington station deserted

09:45 , Sam Rkaina

Pictures from protests across UK

09:42 , Sam Rkaina


Half a million talking part in biggest walkouts in decade

09:40 , Sam Rkaina

The biggest strike in a decade is under way, with up to half a million workers walking out in increasingly bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

Members of seven trade unions are taking industrial action, affecting schools, universities, trains and buses.

Thousands of schools closed for the day because of action by the National Education Union (NEU), although many parents only found out on Wednesday morning if their children would have to stay at home.

Civil servants, train and bus drivers and university staff also stopped work on the biggest single day of strikes in a decade.

Picket lines were mounted outside railway stations, schools, government departments and universities across the country, with unions saying they are receiving strong support from the public.

More than 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union are on strike, including Border Agency staff at ports and airports.

The union announced on Tuesday night that its Border Force members in France will strike during the February half-term.

Protest signs from the picket lines

09:34 , Sam Rkaina

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Union photocall delayed as banner stuck in traffic

09:22 , Sam Rkaina

A photocall for a train drivers’ strike at Euston station was slightly delayed on Wednesday morning due to the worker with their main banner being stuck in traffic.

Several Aslef union workers gathered outside the central London station at 8am as planned, but their large red banner had to be unfurled half an hour later due to transport delays.

The workers were joined by their general secretary, Mick Whelan, who spoke with the media while several passing cars beeped their horns in support of the strike.

Mr Whelan said 12,000 train drivers were taking industrial action across the country on Wednesday.

The government ‘must act and put things right,’ NEU joint secretary says

09:10 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Asked about government’s response to the teachers’ strikes, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “They never thought we’d reach the (strike ballot) threshold.

“Since we’ve reached the threshold, 40,000 more people have joined the union as well.

“So it does show there’s a huge strength of feeling within the profession, that the government must act and put things right.”

Majority of schools fully or partially closed today due to strike action

08:55 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Around 85 per cent of schools will be either fully or partially closed by strike action on Wednesday, the general secretary of the National Education Union has said.

Speaking outside Bishop Thomas Grant School in Streatham, south London, Dr Mary Bousted told the BBC: “About 85 per cent of schools will be affected - either fully closed or partially closed - today.”

She said striking teachers have received “many” messages of support from parents.

“We are very sorry that parents have been so inconvenienced by this strike action,” she said.

“We know that for many of them it will be very difficult to get childcare.

“But we’re also receiving many more messages from parents who say ‘Well, something has to be done, my child is being taught by supply teacher after supply teacher’.”

Education secretary says she expects most schools will be open today despite teachers’ strikes

08:22 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has said she expects most schools will open on Wednesday despite the strike by teachers.

She told BBC Breakfast: “We did do a survey and we have rung round a lot of schools as well and that told us told us that the majority of schools will be open but some will have restrictions for different cohorts.”

Ms Keegan said the the country could not afford above-inflation pay awards.

“What is not realistic is for us to be looking at inflation or inflation-busting pay rises. We cannot risk fuelling inflation with inflation-busting pay rises. We have to look after everybody in the economy,” she said.

Heathrow Airport operating as normal despite Border Force strikes

07:59 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Heathrow Airport said it is operating as normal with minimal queuing in immigration halls despite the strike by Border Force workers.

A spokeswoman for the airport said: “Heathrow is fully operational, passengers are flowing through the border smoothly with Border Force and the military contingency providing a good level of service for arriving passengers.

“We are working to support Border Force’s plans to continue the smooth operation of the airport during this period of industrial action.”

 (PA Archive)
(PA Archive)

Keegan “surprised” teachers not required to give strike warning

07:45 , Sam Rkaina

Ms Keegan has said she had been surprised to learn that teachers were not required to say in advance if they were taking part in Wednesday’s strike.

Ms Keegan said the legal position would remain “under review.”

“It was a surprise to some of us that was in fact the law. I did write to everybody urging them to be constructive, to let their heads know, and I am sure may teachers will have done that,” she told Times Radio.

“There are discussions around minimum service levels, minimum safety levels, around hospitals around rail – education is part of that bill as well.

“We are hoping not to use that, we are hoping to make sure we continue with constructive discussions and relationships but these things will always stay under review.”

Education Secretary “disappointed” by teachers’ strike

07:27 , Sam Rkaina

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has said she “disappointed” that a strike by teachers in England and Wales is going ahead.

Ms Keegan told Times Radio the industrial action was unnecessary as discussions with the unions were continuing.

“I am disappointed that it has come to this, that the unions have made this decision. It is not a last resort. We are still in discussions. Obviously there is a lot of strike action today but this strike did not need to go ahead,” she said.

Ms Keegan said she did not know how many schools would be forced to closed due to the industrial action.

“We are hoping as many schools as possible stay open. We know that head teachers and other school leaders have been working really hard to keep schools open for as many kids as possible,” she said.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan (BBC)
Education secretary Gillian Keegan (BBC)

Today will be very difficult, Downing Street admits

07:00 , Liam James

Downing Street has conceded that today’s mass strike action will be “very difficult”.

Around half a million public service workers will walk out today including teachers, train drivers and civil servants.

Thousands of schools will be closed or partially closed and the bulk of Britain’s train network will be offline as talks to avoid the disruption failed.

Asked about the impact of the widespread action, the prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We know that there will be significant disruption given the scale of the strike action that is taking place tomorrow and that will be very difficult for the public trying to go about their daily lives.

“We are upfront that this will disrupt people’s lives and that’s why we think negotiations rather than picket lines are the right approach.”

Teachers’ union head on morning rounds

06:00 , Liam James

Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), will be doing the morning news rounds today as around 200,000 teachers take the first of their seven planned strike days.

You can hear from Dr Bousted on BBC Radion 4’s Today programme at 7.10am, BBC Breakfast at 8.10, Sky News at 8.20, Channel 5 at 9 and BBC Woman’s Hour at 11.

On Monday Dr Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint NEU general secretary, said: “We have continually raised our concerns with successive education secretaries about teacher and support staff pay and its funding in schools and colleges, but instead of seeking to resolve the issue they have sat on their hands.

“It is disappointing that the government prefers to talk about yet more draconian anti-strike legislation, rather than work with us to address the causes of strike action.”

Schools out: 200,000 teachers to strike in biggest shutdown for three decades

05:00 , Liam James

Parts of the country will effectively grind to a halt on “Walkout Wednesday” as around 200,000 teachers take part in their largest strike for three decades, closing classrooms in 85 per cent of schools (Kate Devlin writes).

In total, half a million teachers, university staff, train drivers, Border Force workers, civil servants and security guards are predicted to take part in a coordinated day of industrial action.

NHS patients and nursery children also risk being disproportionately affected as staff, many of them women, are forced to stay home to look after their own school-age pupils, experts have warned.

Most trains in England will not run, queues are predicted at airports and 600 military personnel are being drafted in to support public services.

More on this here.

Department of Health ‘has missed deadline’ for NHS pay review body

04:00 , Liam James

The Department of Health and Social Care has missed the deadline for submitting evidence on next year’s pay award for more than a million NHS staff, MPs have been told (Ella Pickover writes).

Former health minister Steve Brine, who is now chair of the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, said he was “astonished” that the Department had missed the deadline. But the Treasury has submitted evidence, MPs were told.

Meanwhile, the chair of the NHS Pay Review Body said that the process by which the group advises the Government on remuneration for more than a million NHS staff “feels independent”.

Department of Health ‘has missed deadline’ for 23/24 pay review body

Food banks and second-hand dancing shoes – the struggles that led to the strikes

02:30 , PA

Striking workers have told of the struggles that are forcing them to join walkouts on Wednesday – including the use of food banks and buying second-hand dancing shoes for their children.

Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions will walk out on Wednesday in disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

The PA news agency spoke to some workers from across the sectors, who have given their reasons for striking – whether it be to get better support for their children or simply to make ends meet.

Food banks and second-hand dancing shoes – the struggles that led to the strikes

London Underground workers striking for safety

01:00 , Liam James

You would be forgiven for assuming all strikes taking place in Britain’s 21st century Winter of Discontent were all over pay concerns.

But staff on one London Underground line have an altogether different gripe with their employers: passenger safety.

Aslef workers on the Bakerloo line will walk out on Saturdays 4 and 11 over a TfL plan that they say will risk unaware passengers being rolled into train depots.

Currently, trains on the line are physically checked to make sure they are empty before the driver heads on to the sidings or a depot, but the union said management want to remove this safety check as part of a cost-cutting plan.

Finn Brennan, Aslef’s organiser on the Underground, said: “Previous experience had shown that removing physical checks means that thousands of passengers are unwittingly taken into sidings or depots.

“We understand the pressure that London Underground is under to cut costs, but this cannot be at the expense of the safety of passengers and staff.”

Many Bakerloo line trains have been running 50 years (Getty)
Many Bakerloo line trains have been running 50 years (Getty)

BBC journalist to take strike ballot

00:00 , Liam James

BBC journalists are to vote on industrial action in a dispute over planned changes to local radio programming.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said its members working for BBC England are being balloted over proposals to share local radio programming across the network.

The union said that, under original proposals, BBC local radio stations would share programmes with neighbouring stations after 2pm on weekdays and at weekends, which the NUJ said would lead to a loss of posts and journalists having to re-apply for their own jobs.

A compromise put forward by the BBC which the union said would have seen less sharing was rejected by 70 per cent of NUJ members.

The union said it now has no option but to move to a formal ballot.

All the UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023

Tuesday 31 January 2023 23:00 , Liam James

Joe Sommerlad maps out a month that will see firefighters, teachers, train drivers and ambulance workers alike walk out in rows over pay and conditions:

All the UK strike dates confirmed for February 2023

Two unions join for Environment Agency workers strike

Tuesday 31 January 2023 22:00 , Liam James

Two unions representing Environment Agency workers have voted to strike in a dispute over pay.

Members of Unison and Prospect working in areas including river inspection, flood forecasting, coastal risk management and pollution control will walk out for 12 hours on 8 February.

The unions said that for 12 hours either side of the walkout, Environment Agency employees will also escalate their ongoing work-to-rule by withdrawing from incident response rotas.

Where there is a genuine threat to life or property from something like a major flood, officers will step in as emergency “life and limb cover” has been agreed with agency managers.

Environment Agency staff belonging to Unison took strike action earlier in January. Now their colleagues who are in Prospect will join them for the first joint strike.

School closures subject to heads’ discretion

Tuesday 31 January 2023 21:00 , Liam James

Teachers in England and Wales who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) will take part in walkouts on Wednesday which threaten disruption to more than 23,000 schools.

The walkouts, which could see more than 100,000 teachers go on strike, is the first of seven days of action planned by the NEU in February and March. Some schools are due to close their doors to all pupils on Wednesday as a result of the strikes, with children told to stay at home.

Other schools will be partially closed so they can prioritise children who would benefit most from in-person teaching, such as those sitting exams as well as vulnerable pupils and key workers’ children. In some schools, there may be little or no impact from strike action and they will remain open.

Headteachers will carry out risk assessments to work out whether their schools can open safely with reduced staffing numbers. The decision on whether to close fully or partially is down to individual headteachers.

All the trains cancelled for strikes

Tuesday 31 January 2023 20:00 , Liam James

Train drivers from the Aslef and RMT unions will strike tomorrow, taking the bulk of Britain’s rail network offline.

No trains will run on Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Heathrow Express, London Northwestern Railway, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink, TransPennine Express, West Midlands Railway.

Other affected lines are:

  • Great Western Railway – An extremely limited service will operate, and only between 7.30am and 7.30pm. The only routes served by trains will be: Between London Paddington and Bristol Temple Meads; between Bristol Temple Meads and Cardiff; between Reading and Basingstoke, Oxford and Redhill; between Swindon and Westbury; between Exeter St Davids and Exmouth and Paignton; between Plymouth and Gunnislake; and between Penzance and St Ives.

  • Greater Anglia – A very limited service will operate with one train per hour in each direction between London Liverpool Street and each of Norwich, Colchester, Cambridge and Southend Victoria. Services will start from 8am and finish earlier than usual. No other routes will be served by trains.

  • London North Eastern Railway – An extremely limited timetable will operate. It will run just five trains in each direction between London King’s Cross and Edinburgh, with a handful of other services.

  • South Western Railway – The operator intends to run a full service on the mainland but there will be no trains on the Isle of Wight.

  • Stansted Express – One train per hour will run in each direction between London Liverpool Street and Stansted Airport.

Wednesday’s strike is over pay and working conditions. It will be followed by another walkout on Friday.

Tens of thousands of teachers 'joined union for strike’

Tuesday 31 January 2023 19:00 , Liam James

Tens of thousands more teachers have joined the UK’s largest education union to take part in strikes on Wednesday, a union boss has said.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said ministers should be concerned about the 40,000 new sign-ups to the union since the teacher strikes were announced a fortnight ago.

He said the new members, of which the vast majority are teachers, are joining the union “because they want to be part of the action”.

Mr Courtney told the PA news agency: “That’s a very big conscious decision to make, to join us at this moment. If I was the government, I’d be worried about that.”

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the NEU, said the union is expecting “lots of schools” to close in areas where the NEU has a large representation – like London. Downing Street has conceded that Wednesday’s mass strike action will be “very difficult” for the public.

Bousted talks to the press on Monday (PA)
Bousted talks to the press on Monday (PA)

Britain set for biggest day of strikes in more than a decade

Tuesday 31 January 2023 18:00 , Liam James

More than half a million workers are set to walk out tomorrow on Britain’s biggest day of strikes in more than a decade.

Teachers, train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions will join picket lines as disputes over pay and conditions rage.

Meanwhile, protests will be held across the country against the government’s controversial plans for a new law on minimum service levels during strikes.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said Wednesday will be a “really important day” for workers and members of the public to show support for those taking action to defend pay, jobs and services, as well as for the right to strike.