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UK Turns to Army as Crippling Strikes Loom

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By Véronique Dupont and Marie Heuclin

Britain’s government said Thursday it was preparing to enlist the army to cover ambulances and border security ahead of a wave of strikes this month by workers demanding higher wages. online news

Interior minister Suella Braverman warned the public against flying over Christmas, after passport control officers voted to walk out.

“If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans,” Braverman told reporters.

The Border Force agency is training 2,000 soldiers to back up its personnel, officials said.

The Ministry of Defence is also in talks with the National Health Service, Downing Street said, after ambulance drivers voted to join nurses in striking this month.

The passport control staff and ambulance drivers have joined many sectors who have opted for strike action this year as decades-high inflation erodes the value of earnings.

Rolling strikes

“These sorts of rolling strikes will cause disruption for everyone,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman told reporters, reiterating the government’s opposition to inflation-busting pay deals.

“And that does also include our military personnel who will be required, unfortunately, to have to step in and backfill some of these vital roles that we need to help keep the country moving.”

Sunak on Wednesday hinted that ministers were preparing new legislation to outlaw strikes in critical sectors.

Currently, only Britain’s police, military and prison guards are barred by law from striking.

“What we’re looking at is, are there other areas that we should include in that?” Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told BBC radio Thursday.

“Health would be one to look at and other areas of critical infrastructure,” she added.

The government has yet to look at banning strikes by teachers, who have gone on strike in Scotland and are being balloted in England and Wales, she said.

Christmas crisis

Ahead of a new wave of train strikes beginning next week, rail union leaders said the government had blocked a deal to end their long-running dispute over pay and other conditions.

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“Rail workers and the industry have been put in an impossible position by the Tory government,” Frank Ward, interim general secretary at transport union TSSA, said Thursday.

“Christmas chaos and disruption across our railways are now unfortunately guaranteed, and come gift wrapped from Rishi Sunak and his anti-worker Conservative government’s agenda.”

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Simon Walker (C) outside No 11 Downing Street waiting for the arrival of the in-coming British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak. Simon Walker is the official No 10 Downing Street and the Rishi Sunak’s personal photographer. (Photo by Steve Taylor / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)

The government is pushing through a law to require a minimum service on the railways and has refused to rule out expanding that bill to encompass other public sectors.

But Britain faces a winter of discontent as strikes multiply in the face of spiralling consumer prices. Many travellers will struggle to get home for Christmas as transport staff walk out.

Airports, buses, railways and roads face potential gridlock as a result of strikes, which will also hit Eurostar services.

And Britons face chronic delays to Christmas cards and parcels as walkouts continue to blight postal operator Royal Mail.

Nurses will also walk out next week for the first time in their union’s 106-year history.

Cost of living crisis

British inflation stands above 11 percent, the highest level in more than 40 years.

“I don’t think those going on strike want strikes and disruption,” Keir Starmer, the leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour party, said Thursday.

“They are facing a very real cost-of-living crisis, they are struggling to pay their bills,” he told business leaders.

The Financial Times estimates that more than one million working days will be lost to industrial action in December.

Analysts however talked down the overall economic impact.

“While the strikes feel quite widespread, in practice only a small share of the workforce will be on strike at the same time,” noted Paul Dales at research consultancy Capital Economics.

He conceded however that “any hit” to economic activity “is not helpful when the economy is probably already in recession”.


© Agence France-Presse. All rights are reserved.

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Notes from APS Radio News

From the early part of March 2020 to April 15, 2022, the US Federal Reserve had been increasing its holdings by nearly $5 trillion dollars.

It did this each month of that period by buying billions of dollars of corporation and government bonds, in effect, infusing massive amounts of money into the economy.

And, as the FRED graph shows, it did so at rapid rate or at a high rate of velocity.

Economists say that when massive amoutns of fiat money are infused into the economy at high rates of velocity, the likelihood of noticeably higher rates of inflation is made greater.

A number of other central banks followed a similar policy.

For example, between late February 2020, even days before the media started fixating on the virus thingy, and March of this year, the European Central Bank embarked on its own version of monetary expansion.

During that period, the ECB increased its holdings by over 5 trillion euros.

The Bank of Japan also increased its holdings.

Between February of 2020 and earlier this year, it had increased its holding by a few hundred trillion Yen.

For a number of years, including the Bank of Japan, major central banks have kept their interest rates low.

For its part, the Bank of Japan kept its interest rates at negative rates, meaning that depositors had to pay banks to hold their money.

During and before the pandemic, major corporations had increased the number of mergers and acquisitions, as those entities were able to make their purchases using inexpensive money and higher stock valuations.

The other part of the equation was that of supply.

As a result of lockdowns, many small and medium-sized businesses were closed.

Shipping ports had lost workers, and truck drivers going to those ports had to wait in long lines, as a result.

In effect, well before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shortages of various goods and services developed.

The invasion and sanctions imposed have aggravated shortages of commodities like petroleum and grain.

And there have been instances of price gouging.

Lockdowns and restrictions were imposed over a virus that, in the US, for example, has been associated with an average mortality rate of .07%, according to Statista.

In previous years, before the “emergency” declared in March 2020, when the seasonal flu was being recorded, at various times, the mortality rate could be as great as .13%.

According to analysts, for most age groups, the recovery rate has been 99%.

Dr. John Ioannidis, a ressearch scientist and professor of evidence-based medicine at Stanford University, has analyzwed the average fatality rates as a function of age groups:

“The real-world risk of dying from COVID-19 based on published data from the Irish census bureau and the central statistics office for 2020 and 2021 is as follows: For people under 70, the death rate was 0.014%; under 50 years of age, it was 0.002%, which equates to a 1 in 50,000 risk, or about the same as dying from fire or smoke inhalation. Under 25 years of age, the mortality rate was 0.00018%, or 1 in 500,000 risk of dying from COVID-19.”

In general, in countries that imposed lockdowns, during the period of lockdowns, mask rules and restrictions, the number of suicides, instances of drug abuse, domestic abuse and instances of deferred care increasd.

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