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Discontented British workers launch season of strikes

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From trains and planes to parcels, British workers are gearing for the festive season with a string of strikes, rounding off a year of action that began with an unprecedented walkout by doctors. Hundreds of thousands of commuters were on Friday left stranded for the third day this week after staff on Southern Rail, which runs trains from southern England into London, stopped work. The strike heaped pressure on London’s already overcrowded Tube and bus network and hit train services to one of the capital’s main airports, Gatwick. Air travellers also face the prospect of disruption after British Airways cabin crew voted to strike over pay.

They have not yet announced a date but the action could begin as early as December 21 — the date that many British schools finish for the Christmas holidays. Meanwhile workers at the state-owned Post Office, which runs branches offering stamps, mail delivery and retail services, have announced five days of strikes starting on Monday. The chaos caused by the rail strike has sparked strong criticism of Southern Rail’s management and the government, as well as the unions. One lawmaker from Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative party has proposed tougher laws on taking industrial action on critical public infrastructure.

The government earlier this year passed a law requiring unions to have a ballot turnout of at least 50 percent before striking. “We’ve already passed legislation to provide people with better protection from undemocratic industrial action, and we would keep under review how these measures are working in practice,” the prime minister’s spokeswoman said.

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