UNION barons will today plunge Britain into lockdown by the back door as 500,000 workers go on strike — bringing the country to a near-standstill.
Teachers, civil servants, train drivers, security guards, bus drivers and airport staff will be among the masses joining Walkout Wednesday in the biggest day of industrial action for more than a decade.
5ASLEF members picket outside Euston Station as train drivers stage further strikes over payCredit: Eyevine5Health workers are also in dispute with the Government over payCredit: AlamySome 85 per cent of schools will be fully or partially closed and 15 rail firms will be running no trains, bringing most routes to a halt.
Millions of people will have to work from home leaving city centres resembling ghost towns with offices close to empty.
Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, a former teacher, said: “We didn’t come out of lockdown to see the unions trying to drag us back into their own version of one.
“Whilst we are trying to grow the economy, the only growth they seem to generate is the pay packets of their bosses.”
Millions of kids are expected to miss lessons as 23,000 schools are hit by the first of seven planned strikes, leaving parents struggling to juggle home learning and work.
Unions have told members not to tell head teachers if they plan to walk out, wrecking efforts to make contingency plans.
Militant National Education Union (NEU) co-chief Kevin Courtney denied the tactic was “inappropriate”, saying the aim was for the “strike to be effective”.
He claimed 40,000 new teachers had joined the UK’s largest education union to take part in the strikes — and warned industrial action could roll “into the summer” if ministers continue to refuse their inflation-busting pay demands.
Schools are being forced to resurrect lockdown measures such as prioritising vulnerable kids to come in and offering remote learning to pupils they have to send home.
Education Minister Nick Gibb said he expected most schools to open “in some capacity” but blasted the unions for wreaking havoc.
He said: “Strikes are disruptive to children’s education, particularly after the two years of disruption during the Covid pandemic. And it’s disruptive to parents as well.”
A National Audit Office report out today shows disadvantaged children struggle to make up for lost learning as fast as richer classmates.
Nursery bosses, meanwhile, said they would suffer “quite a serious knock-on effect” as their staff struggle to find childcare today.
Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts said many parents will be “forced to work from home and take annual or unpaid leave to look after younger children.”
Meanwhile, train commuters’ will be trapped at home as drivers strike, with more action on Friday.
Around 1,900 bus drivers in London will also start a three-day walk-out.
Queues will build up at airports as passport booth staff walk out but 600 military personnel will cover.
Some 100,000 civil servants across 124 government departments including the DVLA and Department for Work and Pensions will stay out.
Seventy thousand University and College Union members at 150 sites will also be off work.
More bad news came yesterday when Unison announced further ambulance strikes in England on February 10.
Britain will be plunged into lockdown as 500,000 workers go on strike5RMT membrs begin their nationwide strike in a bitter dispute over payCredit: SWNSNurses will walk out again on Monday for 48 hours and ambulance workers just on Monday.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay will soon be putting in evidence to the pay review body in a bid to resolve the dispute — looking at non-pay issues such as pensions.
Mr Barclay told MPs that the strike action was not just an “England-only phenomenon”.
He said Wales and Scotland has seen similar challenges and the French healthcare system was facing strikes while the Canadian system was also “under huge pressure”.
Downing Street said the ongoing strike action was “deeply concerning and will worry the public”.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We know that there will be significant disruption given the scale of the strike action 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.”
Transport Minister Richard Holden said agreeing to strikers’ demands would lead to massive tax rises or cuts to public services.
Meanwhile, the knock-on effect of rail strikes stopping staff getting to work will cost pubs, bars and restaurants £100million this week.
UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls, said the sector had lost around £2.5billion since last summer.
She said: “Hospitality continues to suffer as collateral damage.
“The situation is entirely avoidable but provides yet another pressure for a sector contending with soaring energy costs, workforce challenges and dampening consumer confidence.”
‘WORLD WAR’ JIBE RAPPED
ALEX Gordon, RMT’s executive committee chair, was last night blasted for accusing ministers calling for more military spending of preparing for world war.
Tory MP Kevin Foster said: “It’s useful idiots like this that tyrants and despots have always depended on.”
The RMT has previously condemned the invasion of Ukraine.
5A physiotherapist holds a placard which during a demonstration over payCredit: Alamy5Heavy traffic on the A40 in west London due to rail strikesCredit: LNP
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk