Strikes over pay disrupt Christmas travel in the UK and France

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By Euronews  with AP
France's SNCF has now cut more than a third of scheduled trains for the Christmas weekend.
France's SNCF has now cut more than a third of scheduled trains for the Christmas weekend.   -   Copyright  Laurent Cipriani/Copyright 2022 The AP. All rights reserved.

Air travellers could face possible delays at UK airports after government employees who check passports went on strike Friday - the latest of a spate of walkouts over pay, amid a cost-of-living crisis.

France has braced for similar Christmas travel disruption as a weekend rail strike starts to bite.

The strike by Border Force staff was due to continue through to the end of the year, with the exception of next Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers could be affected, though the British government said it would be preparing military personnel and workers from other public services to help out at airports.

The strikes are putting pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government, which is refusing demands from public sector workers for substantial pay rises.

Inflation stood at 10.7 per cent in November, driven by food and energy price rises in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Sunak said he regretted the walkout and advised people to check on their journey plans before setting out.

“I am really sad and I am disappointed about the disruption that is being caused to so many people’s lives, particularly at Christmas time,” he said during a visit to a homeless shelter in London.

He insisted his government has acted “fairly and reasonably” in public sector pay negotiations.

Thousands of National Health Service nurses walked off the job Tuesday in their second 24-hour strike this month. Ambulance drivers, paramedics and dispatchers also went on strike earlier this week and plan another walkout next Wednesday.

Postal deliveries, highway maintenance and driving tests are also being disrupted by strikes.

Further travel difficulties loomed on Saturday, Christmas Eve, when most train services were expected to be cancelled.

The labour unrest is set to continue into the new year when more strikes are planned.

France faces similar problems.

About half of France’s train conductors are going on strike for the Christmas weekend. A third of scheduled train services were cancelled Friday and 40% of trains were cancelled for Saturday and Sunday, according to the SNCF national rail authority.

The conductors are demanding higher pay and more staff. It’s among several strikes in France stemming from the rising cost of living in recent months.

For more, watch Euronews' report in the video above.