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UK Labor Unions Disrupt Christmas Transportation With Strikes

REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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Ted Goodman Reporter

It’s six days until Christmas, and labor unions in the United Kingdom are threatening to disrupt holiday travel and package delivery for millions.

Hundreds of striking post office managers and train conductors have already caused significant disruptions to Christmas travel and package delivery, while planned strikes by British Airways cabin crew and baggage handlers may deepen anxiety for millions of holiday-goers across the pond.

British Airways is meeting with the union that represents its cabin crew Monday, in an effort to stymie a planned strike that would take place on Christmas. (RELATED: British Airways To Talk With Union As Strike Looms)

Virgin Atlantic pilots have also voted to take industrial action, but short of a strike, in a dispute over union recognition. Baggage handlers and ground workers at Swissport, the world’s largest ground and cargo handler, voted to go on strike in their own dispute over wages.

The disruptions are also taking place on the ground. More than 700 post office managers across the country have held day-long strikes throughout December, including a strike on Dec. 3. The managers plan to strike again on Christmas over pensions and the franchising of the “Crown Post Offices,” which are larger branches of the nation’s mail service centrally located in communities across the country.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents workers at UK post offices, also plans to strike in a dispute over jobs, pensions, and franchising. The strike is planned to take place through Christmas day.

Britain’s trains are also suffering from a series of strikes as Christmas approaches. Southern Railway, which serves the densely populated London suburbs south of the River Thames, is facing major labor disruptions as its train drivers and conductors continue to strike into December.

Members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Steam Enginemen and Firemen, which represents the drivers of Southern Rail, staged walkouts in mid-December. The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, which also represents employees of the Southern Rail, will strike Dec. 22 and 31.

The strikes come at a bad time for Southern rail and British air travel. The rail system is dealing with a year of strikes, delays, protests and terrorism scares. Europe’s legacy air carriers are looking to streamline costs in order to compete with low cost, budget alternatives like Ryan Air.

The unions are currently walking a tight rope between effective messaging (by striking during peak times) while also trying to avoid public backlash by disrupting the Christmas of fellow Brits.

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