A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Strikes continue to intensify next week as hundreds of thousands of nurses belonging to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) take strike action on Thursday (December 15) for the first time in the union’s 106-year history. The strike – which spans across all NHS employers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland with the exception of one Welsh trust – is part of an ongoing pay dispute, with the RCN calling for a pay rise of five per cent above RPI inflation levels after research showed nurses were 20 per cent worse off in real terms since 2010. Strains on the healthcare system this Christmas could be exacerbated further depending on the results of a Royal College of Midwives ballot on strike action, which closes on Monday (December 12).
The season of Christmas cheer may be snuffed out for many hoping to navigate the UK’s transport network this week as strike action by Network Rail staff belonging to the RMT is poised to cause disruption from Tuesday through Saturday (December 13-17), after union head Mick Lynch claimed train operators were forced into withdrawing a prospective offer for RMT members. Network Rail control room operators, TSSA rail staff and Eurostar workers are all taking coinciding action on the same dates. Strikes are by no means limited to nurses and rail workers – a full list of disruption next week includes:
- Royal Mail staff (CWU), December 11, 14 and 15
- Avanti West Coast train managers (RMT), December 11-12
- Royal College of Midwives ballot closes, December 12
- NHS Scotland ballot closes (Unite), December 12
- Network Rail and Eurostar workers (RMT, Unite and TSSA), December 13, 14, 16 and 17
- Rural Payments Agency customer service staff (PCS), December 13-16
- DVSA staff (PCS), December 13-18
- Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (RCN), December 15
- Engineers on Great Western Railway (Unite), December 15
- Abellio bus drivers in London (Unite), December 16-17
- Ground handling staff at Heathrow (Unite), December 16-19
- National Highways staff working in North-West England, North-East England and Yorkshire and the Humber (PCS), December 16 and 17
We’re getting to the business end of the tournament as the Qatar World Cup enters its final stages, with knockout ties continuing next week ahead of the showpiece finale on Sunday (December 18). The early exits of European heavyweights Germany, Belgium and Spain and a stuttering start by potential final opponents Argentina mean England are firmly among the favourites to lift the trophy, though their reward for a round of 16 victory over Senegal is a tough quarter-final clash with 2018 winners France this weekend, before a potential semi-final against Portugal or surprise package Morocco on Wednesday (December 14). Away from the sporting action, the death of a Filipino man at a training venue this week was a reminder of the controversy surrounding the lacklustre responses from FIFA and the host nation to migrant worker deaths in the lead up to the tournament.
The South African parliament meets on Tuesday (December 13) to debate whether to hold impeachment proceedings for President Cyril Ramaphosa in the wake of a November 30 report which found evidence that he may have violated the constitution and his oath of office over a $4 million burglary at his Phala Phala farm. While it initially seemed Ramaphosa would resign over the report, he has been buoyed by his party’s support after the African National Congress declared its Assembly members would not vote for impeachment; he has now challenged the findings in the Constitutional Court and insists he will stand for the ANC’s leadership at its conference beginning on Friday (December 16) ahead of elections next year.
EU leaders meet for their last summit of the year on Thursday and Friday (December 15-16) with Ukraine and energy unsurprisingly leading the agenda. Discussions on Ukraine are likely to be heated after Hungary blocked approval of an €18 billion aid package on Tuesday in retaliation for an unprecedented European Commission recommendation to freeze €7.5 billion in budget funds for Budapest over failed corruption reforms. Leaders are also due to discuss the continent’s gas supply, with a focus on joint purchases and pooling demand in preparation for next winter; they may also try to make progress on a gas price cap agreement, depending on the state of negotiations after energy ministers meet on Tuesday (December 13). Also keep an eye out for a decision on candidacy status for Bosnia and Herzegovina following a recommendation from the Commission and calls for more investment in defence capacity.