Britain’s industrial unrest has been described as a second winter of unrest (although not a point above the mass walks that took place in the UK in 1978-79) and is expected to reach a peak in the coming days, with rail workers and postmen, NHS staff and driving instructors. (yeah, that one surprised me too) it all came down to pay and conditions.
A vote among RMT members for the latest pay offer for rail workers closes on Monday with the rail union recommending that members reject the proposed deal. The Financial Times revealed last week that the offer could have been significantly higher but a 10 per cent pay rise over two years was blocked by government ministers. The latest in several 48-hour RMT walkouts planned over the Christmas period will begin on Tuesday.
More than 1 million working days are expected to be lost due to strikes in the UK in December, the worst monthly disruption since the end of Margaret Thatcher’s term.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration to introduce anti-strike legislation, and we may hear more about it this week, but successive Tory prime ministers have made similar promises that have come to nothing. And whatever Sunak is doing now will be too late to boost industry activity over the Christmas holidays.
Want some better news? On Tuesday, the first of a new generation of European weather satellites will be launched into space from Kourou in French Guiana. Despite what Billy Bragg sang about wanting in space hardware, the €4.3 billion Meteosat Third Generation system is giving meteorologists a real competitive edge, providing more accurate forecasts, including better warnings of impending storms.
The three satellites will be in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the equator over Africa. From there they will provide images of Europa every two and a half minutes, including the first detailed observations of lightning from space. Thus, the system is expected to save lives lost in severe weather.
And then there is football.
If you hate the Fifa World Cup, you’ll be happy to know that it’s the final week of the tournament. If you like it, you can enjoy the crescendo of an extraordinary month for the beautiful game where the four remaining teams play in the semis on Wednesday ahead of Sunday’s final – read the FT cover for full details.
Not only the strikes are gathering this week. Markets are focused on a trio of interest rate announcements from the shrinking economies: the US, the EU and the UK. All three are expected to ease slightly on planned hike levels.
There is also a lot of US and UK data that influences rate setting committees. The gap between short-term and long-term borrowing costs – at its widest level since 1981 – has fueled expectations among investors that the Fed will continue to tighten its monetary policy to curb inflation, despite increased concerns about recession.
The last time the UK’s Monetary Policy Committee met, in early November, it focused on restoring confidence in the country’s economic management. The Bank of England continues to talk tough, but this time the MPC’s response is expected to be more measured. A 0.5 percent increase in the base rate is expected on Thursday, rather than a repeat of last month’s 0.75 percent rate.
At the end of the week with the numbers of the G7 flash shopping managers list. There is also a summit of EU leaders and OPEC publishes its monthly outlook report.
It’s a quiet week for earnings announcements, but one with some notable companies reporting from specific sectors. In retail fashion, there’s H&M, which is talking about its recovery in the Chinese market after a long-running consumer boycott. Expectations are high for Spain’s Inditex, which is home to Zara, among others. For technology, there is the acquired Oracle. And in the outdoor area, Capita and Serco represent.
Read the full calendar for next week here.