Britain’s cost of living crisis is already gaining momentum compared to Black Friday. Now, the annual trade bonanza faces an additional threat of strikes that could disrupt deliveries, dampen online sales and deal another blow to the flagging economy.
Some 235,000 workers went on strike across the UK this week, encompassing schools, universities and the postal service. Workers are demanding better wages and working conditions as they grapple with soaring food and energy bills.
The strike of as many as 115,000 Royal Mail workers on Thursday and Friday threatens to disrupt Black Friday sales and deliveries at a crucial time of year for retailers.
Small businesses in particular are taking ‘tremendous damage’ from the postal strikes as they ‘rely on efficient courier service for much of their business’, according to a statement posted on LinkedIn and signed by Murray. Lambell, eBay ( EBAY) UK chief executive, Martin McTague, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, and Michelle Ovens, founder of campaign group Small Business Britain.
The postal workers plan new strikes on November 30 and December 1, after the walkouts in August and September.
“Customers should expect delays to items posted just before, during or just after the strike,” Royal Mail said in a statement.
Strikes have swept across the UK this year as workers grapple with a deepening cost of living crisis and an economy sliding into recession. Wages have stagnated and failed to keep pace with inflation, which is now at its highest level in 41 years, setting the stage for clashes between employers and employees.
These clashes have already caused widespread disruption, including to train travel, and are now spreading to even more sectors, such as education and health.
More than 70,000 university workers went on strike over pay, working conditions and pensions on Thursday and Friday at 150 universities across the UK.
The strike is the largest in British higher education history, affecting more than 2.5 million students, according to the University and College Union, which organized the strike. Another strike is scheduled for November 30.
In Scotland, all schools on the mainland were closed on Thursday after walkouts by as many as 50,000 teachers in the first day of a nationwide pay strike in nearly 40 years, according to the Educational Institute of Scotland, a trade union.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing, which has more than 300,000 members, said on Friday nurses would stage a two-day strike in December – the first in the union’s 106-year history – in support of its call for a salary increase. Unison, a union representing nearly half a million health care workers, will complete its own strike ballot on Friday.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 356,000 days were lost due to a strike in August, not far from the previous record set in July 2014 when 386,000 days were lost. That number fell to 205,000 in September.
But the situation could still get worse before it gets better, with disruption extending beyond Black Friday and into the end of the holiday season. The strikes will also add to the losses suffered by businesses and could lead to further job cuts.
RMT, Britain’s biggest transport union, announced four 48-hour strikes in December and January on Tuesday after talks with Network Rail broke down. Network Rail chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said the strike makes the “precarious financial hole” in which the company finds itself larger and “the task of finding a solution increasingly difficult”.
Drivers of Best Food Logistics, which deliver fresh food to restaurants such as KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut, also voted to strike, according to a statement from the Union GMB on Thursday. No date has yet been announced, and a company spokesperson told CNN Business that it is committed to “finding a way forward.”
The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents striking postal workers, announced additional walkouts on December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24, which could jeopardize Christmas deliveries. Royal Mail says it has not yet been officially advised of these dates.
Relations between the company and the union deteriorated after they failed to reach an agreement on wages and changes to working conditions during seven-month talks.
According to Royal Mail CEO Simon Thompson, the strikes have added £100m ($121.3m) to Royal Mail’s losses so far this year and could lead to further job cuts on top of 10,000 already announced.
“The CWU’s planned strike holds Christmas hostage for our customers, businesses and families across the country, and puts the jobs of their own members at risk,” Thompson said in a statement.
Also on Friday, thousands of Amazon (AMZN) warehouse workers plan to take part in protests and strikes in some 30 countries, including the United States, Britain, Japan, India, India. Australia, France, Germany and South Africa, according to UNI Global Union. .
This is the third year that the Make Amazon Pay campaign has organized a global day of action on Black Friday. Protests due to take place between shifts at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry, England on Friday evening are unlikely to affect Black Friday deliveries.