Branded a second winter of discontent (although not a patch for the mass strikes that swept the UK in 1978-79), Britain’s industrial riots will plague the UK in the days to come, with rail and postal workers, NHS workers and driving instructors all set to die Climax (yes, that surprised me too) all go beyond pay and conditions.
A vote among RMT members for the latest railworker salary offer ends on Monday, with the rail union recommending members reject the proposed deal. The offer could have been significantly higher, but a 10 percent pay rise over two years has been blocked by government ministers, the Financial Times revealed last week. The latest of several 48-hour RMT strikes planned over the Christmas period begins Tuesday.
More than 1 million working days are expected to be lost in December in the UK to strikes, the worst disruption since Margaret Thatcher left office.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government to enact anti-strike legislation and we could hear more about it this week, but successive Tory prime ministers have made similar pledges that have fizzled. And whatever Sunak does now, it will be too late for the industrial action to escalate over the Christmas holidays.
Want better news? On Tuesday, the first of a new generation of European weather satellites will be launched from Kourou in French Guiana. Despite what Billy Bragg sang about wanting space hardware, the €4.3 billion third-generation Meteosat system offers meteorologists a real leap forward, delivering more accurate forecasts, including better warnings of upcoming storms.
Three satellites will hover over Africa in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the equator. From there they will provide images of Europa every two and a half minutes, including the first comprehensive observations of lightning from space. In this way, the system aims to save lives that could have been lost in extreme weather conditions.
And then there’s football.
If you hate the Fifa World Cup, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s the final week of the tournament. If you love it, you can enjoy the crescendo of an exceptional month for the beautiful game as the remaining four teams play in Wednesday’s semifinals ahead of Sunday’s final – read the FT’s coverage for all the details.
It’s not just strikes that are piling up this week. Markets are focused on a trio of rate announcements from the acronym economies: US, EU and UK. All three are likely to slow down somewhat at the level of the planned increases.
There is also a wealth of data from the US and UK influencing rate setting committees. The gap between short-term and long-term borrowing costs – at its widest since 1981 – has fueled investor expectations that the Fed will remain on course to tighten monetary policy to tame inflation, despite growing fears of a recession.
At the UK’s Monetary Policy Committee’s last meeting in early November, attention focused on restoring confidence in the country’s economic governance. The Bank of England continues to speak hard, but this time the MPC’s response is expected to be more measured. The benchmark interest rate is expected to rise 0.5 percentage point on Thursday, rather than repeating last month’s 0.75 percentage point hike.
The weekends with G7 flash PMI numbers. There is also an EU summit meeting and OPEC publishes its monthly outlook.
It’s a quiet week for earnings reports, but one with some notable companies reporting from specific sectors. In retail fashion, there’s H&M, which talks about its recovery in the Chinese market after a long consumer boycott. Expectations are also high for the Spanish Inditex, home of the Zara brand, among others. For tech, there’s the acquiring Oracle. And in the outsourcing area, Capita and Serco are represented.
Read the full calendar for next week here.