Travellers have been told to brace for more Christmas chaos after road workers announced 12 days of strikes to coincide with rail walkouts.

National Highways employees, who operate and maintain roads in England, will take part in a series of staggered strikes from 16 December to 7 January, the PCS union said.

“We know our members’ action could inconvenience travellers who plan to visit their relatives over the festive period, but our members have been placed in this situation by a government that won’t listen to its own workforce,” said the PCS union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka.

“With the serious cost of living crisis, they deserve to be paid properly for the important work they do, keeping our roads running safe and free.”

Traffic officers help keep the roads moving and users safe through planning and delivering schemes as well as providing key safety services such as rolling road blocks, smart motorways and lane closures.

The walkouts, which risk bringing the road network to a standstill, will coincide with planned strikes by RMT members on the railways.

Here are the dates each area will be affected by the road strikes:

• 16 and 17 December – North West, Yorkshire, and North East
• 22, 23, 24 and 24 December – London and South East
• 30 and 31 December – West Midlands and South West
• 3 and 4 January – All areas
• 6 and 7 January – East Midlands and eastern England

The rail strikes are planned on 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 December and 3, 4, 6 and 7 January.

How is Sunak handling the strikes and is time running out for the government?

From rail and postal staff to nurses and road workers: It is hard to comprehend the list of sectors on strike this month.

Mass walkouts will impact everyone and adds to the general sense that the country just isn’t working properly.

It’s tricky ground for Labour – Keir Starmer has grappled to keep his front bench from the picket line – but it is a Tory government presiding over a winter of industrial action, and the Conservatives who will be blamed as the system strains.

It is significant that the transport secretary and rail minister have met with the RMT’s Mick Lynch this week.

Where his predecessors took an arms-length approach to strikes, and a combative tone on the unions, Rishi Sunak appears to be trying a more constructive tactic.

However, for a government that wants to be seen as competent, judged on its actions, time is running out.

Any deal with rail unions would need to be reached in the next few days to reinstate Christmas timetables.

The government has been at pains to stress sweeping public sector inflation-level pay rises are “unaffordable”.

They are certainly a long way off any deal over nurses’ pay.

Without any breakthroughs, that means a bleak winter of industrial action for the public and the PM.

Ground handlers at Heathrow have also said they will strike before Christmas in a dispute over pay.

In all, 350 workers employed by Menzies will walk out from 4am on 16 December for 72 hours.

The airport has urged its partners affected by the strikes to “continue with their contingency planning” and has said it will support them to “minimise the impact on passengers”.

Hundreds of thousands of workers across many sectors of the economy, including nurses, postal staff and ambulance employees, have announced strike action during the festive period.

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Strikes ‘a lot on government’s plate’

Ministers have ‘a lot on their plate’

General secretary of the RMT union Mick Lynch met government ministers earlier on Friday for discussions on averting strike action in December, and told Sky News “talks are continuing over the weekend”.

“We’ll see where we go from there,” he said.

He added that the government is taking the strikes “seriously” but there is a “lot going on in society at the minute”.

Read more:
Strikes every day until Christmas – which sectors and why?
Listen to nurses explain why they have decided to strike

Will the strikes cause a beer and fast food shortage?

“They [ministers] have a got a lot on their plate,” he said.

Disruption to postal services ahead of Christmas is likely to be an issue for some as well, with Royal Mail asking customers to post their cards and gifts earlier than usual due to the ongoing strike action by its workers.

Eurostar security staff are also due to strike on 16, 18, 22 and 23 December.

Other departments, including the Home Office, are expected to announce industrial action over the course of the next few weeks.

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