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
As the government pushes on with legislation mandating minimum service levels in sectors affected by strikes – the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill is due in the Commons on Monday (January 30) for committee and remaining stages – the UK faces its largest day of industrial action in decades on Wednesday (February 1) as coordinated strikes hit the education, rail and public sectors in what the TUC are branding a national ‘day of action’.
Hundreds of thousands of teachers and support staff in England and Wales kick off the National Education Union’s strike campaign as part of their ongoing dispute with the government over pay, following the NEU’s rejection of a 5% pay offer for 2022/23. A further six days of regional and national strikes are planned for February and March. The higher education sector will also be affected by the day of action as 70,000 UCU members working at 150 universities go on strike as part of their dispute over a pay offer which the union argues amounts to only a 4-5% increase, although that figure has been challenged by the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). Teaching staff will be joined by over 100,000 civil servants across 124 departments and public bodies, in what the PCS union calls a ‘significant escalation’ in their disputes over pay, conditions and pensions.
Those who are headed to work or picket lines on Wednesday also face travel disruption as train drivers and rail workers belonging to the ASLEF and RMT unions are striking as part of their battle with 14 train operating companies over jobs, conditions and pay. Attempts by the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) to forestall the strikes by offering their ‘best and final offer’ to both unions last week have so far been unsuccessful, with ASLEF rejecting their offer outright and the RMT providing no updates since the offer was submitted. Both unions are holding additional strikes on Friday (February 3).
A big week for insights into the state of economies around the world sees interest rate decisions by the UK, US and European central banks along with a slew of earnings releases from some of the world’s biggest companies. The IMF kicks things off on Tuesday (January 31) when it publishes the biannual update to its World Economic Outlook, which will be closely watched after Kristalina Georgieva said earlier this month that the Fund expects a third of the global economy to be in recession this year.
Despite the unexpected growth in the UK economy shown in last week’s GDP figures, the Bank of England is likely to announce another rate rise on Thursday (February 2) in an attempt to keep price rises below double digits as it also publishes its latest Monetary Policy Report to update last November’s inflation forecasts. Rate rises are also expected from the Fed and the ECB (Wednesday and Thursday, respectively), while results from tech heavyweights Meta, Amazon and Apple, and companies including ExxonMobil, Shell, Ford, General Motors, Ryanair and McDonald’s will shed some light on how companies from a variety of important sectors have performed over a tough winter period.
Following a week where the focus was very much on Ukraine’s military needs, there will be a shift in emphasis when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hosts European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel next Friday (February 3) for the first EU-Ukraine summit since the start of the conflict, and the first since Ukraine was granted candidate country status last June. Ukrainian authorities, keen to show progress towards achieving the so-called seven recommendations laid out by the European Commission, will likely point to the recent departure of a series of top officials amid an anti-corruption drive as evidence of Ukraine’s commitment to its bid for membership, though any decision is not expected until October when the EU’s annual enlargement package is unveiled.
The summit comes just days before the G7, EU, and Australia are due to enact import bans and price caps on Russian oil products, which come into effect on Sunday (February 5) following on from the crude cap agreed in December. It is thought this latest effort may come in the form of two price caps, given additional complications associated with the range of refined products.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pays a two-day visit to Israel and Palestine on Monday and Tuesday (January 30-31), his first since Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government took office last month. The trip, which includes stops in Jerusalem and Ramallah, comes amid heightened tensions in the region, notably following a deadly Israeli raid in Jenin on Thursday.
Blinken is then expected in Beijing on Sunday (February 5) for high-level talks with his new counterpart Qin Gang, a former Chinese Ambassador to the US. While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is on the agenda for talks, it’s difficult to imagine China significantly altering its position on the conflict. Blinken is likely to push for the resumption of US-China discussions on issues such as climate change and military matters, and the pair will likely also aim to put tensions behind them over Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last year, though this may prove difficult amid news that Pelosi’s Republican successor Kevin McCarthy is apparently planning a trip to Taipei.