Britain’s industrial unrest has been described as second winter of discontent (even though not a patch on the massive walkouts that hit the UK in 1978-79) and is expected to culminate in the coming days, with railway and postal workers, NHS staff and driving instructors (yes, that one surprised me too) all walking on pay and conditions.
A ballot among RMT members for the latest wage offer to railway workers ends on Monday, with the railway union recommending members reject the proposed deal. The offer could have been much higher but a 10% pay rise over two years has been blocked by government ministers, the Financial Times reported last week. The last of several 48-hour RMT walkouts planned over the Christmas period will begin on Tuesday.
More than 1 min working days should be lost in the strikes in the UK in December, the worst disruption of any month since the end of Margaret Thatcher’s term of office.
Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration to enact an anti-strike law, and we may hear more about that this week, but successive Tory Prime Ministers have made similar promises that have come to nothing. And whatever Sunak does now, it will be too late for him. escalation of industrial action during Christmas holidays.
Want better news? On Tuesday, the first of a new generation of European weather satellites will be spear in space from Kourou in French Guiana. Despite what Billy Bragg sang about wishes about space hardware, the 4.3 billion euro third-generation Meteosat system offers a real leap forward for meteorologists, providing more accurate forecasts, including better warnings impending storms.
Three satellites will hover in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the equator above Africa. From there, they will provide images of Europe every two and a half minutes, including the first full observations of lightning from space. By doing so, the system is expected to save lives that could have been lost in extreme weather conditions.
And then there is football.
If you hate the FIFA World Cup, you’ll be happy to know that it’s the last week of the tournament. If you like it, you can savor it crescendo of an extraordinary month for the great match with the four remaining teams playing in the semi-finals on Wednesday before the final on Sunday – read the FT coverage for more details.
It’s not just the strikes that are regrouping this week. Markets focus on a trio of interest rate announcements from the acronym economies: the US, EU and UK. All three should ease somewhat on the levels of the expected increases.
There is also a wealth of data from the US and UK that influences pricing committees. The gap between short-term and long-term borrowing costs — at their highest level since 1981 — has bolstered investor expectations that the Fed stay focus on tightening its monetary policy to control inflation, despite heightened fears of recession.
When the UK’s Monetary Policy Committee last met in early November, attention focused on restoring confidence in the country’s economic management. The Bank of England continues to Speak loud, but this time the MPC’s response should be more measured. Expectations are for a 0.5 percentage point hike in the base rate on Thursday, rather than repeating last month’s 0.75 percentage point hike.
Weekends with flash indices of G7 purchasing managers. There is also an EU leaders’ summit and OPEC publishes its monthly outlook report.
It’s been a quiet week for earnings announcements, but with a few notable companies reporting in specific sectors. In fashion retail, there’s H&M, which has kept talking about its Chinese market recovery after a long consumer boycott. Expectations are also high for Spain’s Inditex, home to the Zara brand, among others. For technology, there is the greedy Oracle. And in the field of outsourcing, Capita and Serco represent.
Read the full schedule for the coming week here.