The cost of living crisis in Britain is already dampening Black Friday. Now, the annual shopping bonanza faces yet another threat of strikes that could disrupt deliveries, suppress online sales and deliver another blow to the slumping economy.
Around 235,000 workers went on strike across the UK this week, across schools, universities and postal services. Workers are demanding better wages and working conditions as they struggle with soaring food and energy bills.
Strike action by as many as 115,000 Royal Mail staff on Thursday and Friday threatens to disrupt Black Friday sales and deliveries at a crucial time of the year for retailers.
Small businesses in particular are suffering “huge damage” from the postal strikes, as they “rely on an efficient mail service for much of their commerce,” according to a statement posted on LinkedIn and signed by Murray Lambell, eBay (EBAY ) UK chief executive Martin McTague, president of the Federation of Small Businesses, and Michelle Ovens, founder of campaign group Small Business Britain.
Postal workers are planning more strike action for November 30 and December 1, following the strikes in August and September.
“Customers should expect delays for items posted just before, during or shortly after strike action,” Royal Mail said in a statement.
Strikes have hit the UK this year as workers grapple with a worsening cost-of-living crisis and an economy sliding into a recession. Wages have stagnated and failed to keep pace with inflation, now at a 41-year high, setting the stage for clashes between employers and employees.
Such clashes have already caused widespread disruption, including for train travel, and are now spreading to even more sectors, such as education and healthcare.
More than 70,000 university workers went on strike over pay, working conditions and pensions at 150 UK universities on Thursday and Friday.
The strike is the largest in the history of British higher education, affecting more than 2.5 million students, according to the University and College Union, which organized the strike. Another strike is scheduled for November 30th.
In Scotland, every school on the mainland was closed on Thursday after strikes by as many as 50,000 teachers on the first day of a nationwide wage 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 hold a two-day strike in December – the first in the union’s 106-year history – in support of its call for higher pay. high. Unison, a union representing nearly half a million health care workers, will complete its strike vote on Friday.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 356,000 days were lost to strikes in August, not far from the previous high recorded in July 2014, when 386,000 days were lost. That number dropped to 205,000 in September.
But the picture could get worse again before it gets better, with disruptions extending beyond Black Friday and well into the holiday season. The strike actions will also add to the losses suffered by companies and could lead to further job cuts.
RMT, Britain’s largest transport union, on Tuesday announced four 48-hour strikes in December and January after talks with Network Rail failed. Network Rail’s chief negotiator Tim Shoveller said the strike made the “precarious financial hole” the company was in and “the task of finding a solution increasingly difficult”.
The drivers of Best Food Logistics, which deliver fresh food to restaurants including KFC, Burger King and Pizza Hut, also voted to go on strike, according to a statement from the GMB Union Thursday. No date has yet been announced, and a company spokesperson told CNN Business that he is committed to “finding a way forward.”
The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents striking postal workers, announced further strikes on December 9, 11, 14, 15, 23 and 24, which could jeopardize Christmas deliveries. Royal Mail say they have not yet been formally informed of these dates.
Relations between the company and the union deteriorated after they failed to reach an agreement on wages and changes to terms and conditions of work 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 more job cuts on top of the 10,000 already announced.
“The CWU’s planned strike action is holding Christmas as a ransom for our customers, businesses and families across the country and is putting the jobs of its members at risk,” Thompson said in a statement.
Also on Friday, according to UNI Global Union, thousands of Amazon (AMZN) warehouse workers are planning to take part in protests and strikes in some 30 countries, including the United States, Britain, Japan, India, Australia, France, Germany and South Africa. .
This is the third year that the Make Amazon Pay campaign has organized a global day of action on Black Friday. Protests taking place between shifts at an Amazon warehouse in Coventry, England on Friday evening are not expected to affect Black Friday deliveries.