Strikes bring Britain to a halt as half a million workers protest over the cost of living


A long-running dispute over wages and working conditions came to a head on Wednesday, with hundreds of thousands of British workers taking part in what organizers described as the biggest industrial strike day in more than a decade.

About 500,000 workers took part in the day of mass action, with teachers, train drivers, university lecturers, bus drivers, civil servants and airport employees all going on strike. The huge display of discontent comes amid rampant inflation and years of stagnant wage growth, and puts more pressure on the long-ruling Conservative government grappling with a cost-of-living crisis.

Up to 500,000 British workers, including teachers, went on strike over wages and working conditions on February 1, in Britain’s biggest day of protest in decades. (Video: Reuters)

Downing Street warned the British that the strike would cause “great disruption”. Thousands of schools have been closed – about 85 percent of schools in England and Wales are said to be affected – and most trains in England were not running.

Nurses in the UK are on strike for wages, testing a healthcare system in crisis

The Daily Mail called the strikes the “Wednesday strike” and described it as a “general strike in all but name”. The Sun dubbed the disruption “Lockdown 2023”.

The coordinated day of action is the latest in what British newspapers dubbed the “Winter of Discontent”, named after the 1978-1979 period of widespread discontent.

Britain has the strictest laws in Europe, said Katherine Barnard, a British academic specializing in labor law at the University of Cambridge, with disaffected workers having to jump through many hoops before they can strike – and they are set to get even tougher.

See also  Russia's Putin is making his first foreign trip since launching the Ukraine war

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has introduced legislation imposing a “minimum service”, allowing employers to impose a basic degree of coverage in areas such as health, railways, education, fire and border security while on strike.

However, many workers have been striking en masse since last summer – and since then, the scale of the strikes has escalated.

Workers say they are underpaid and overworked, and that, over many years, their real wages have not kept pace with rising costs. For example, teachers in the middle of the salary scale saw their wages drop by 9 to 10 percent in real terms between 2010 and 2022, according to Institute for Financial Studies. The government says it cannot pay teachers what they demand because that would fuel inflation, which is already over 10 percent.

Several unions say there is no sign of a breakthrough in wage talks and have pledged more work in the coming weeks.

More strikes are planned throughout February – and beyond. Newspapers have calendars and Interactive tools To help readers know what strikes are taking place in their area and when. Next week, the nurses are expected to once again join the picket lines. When they went on strike in December, it was the first time in their union’s 106-year history.

“It’s not going to go the way Rishi Sunak hoped it would,” said Stephen Fielding, professor emeritus of political history at the University of Nottingham. “He basically tried to rejuvenate Margaret Thatcher, but it just didn’t work.”

When Sunak became prime minister last year, he styled himself as the responsible manager of the economy, the one who would clean up his predecessor’s economic mess, and hoped to get things back on track in time for the next election, which must be held by January 2025. Like Margaret Thatcher, leader Former Conservative party leaders still enjoy party favors, Sunak’s government is not backing down on unions and has introduced new “anti-strike” legislation.

See also  A former Chinese People's Liberation Army official said imposing China's "last resort" on Taiwan reunification

“That’s what Thatcher did,” Fielding said, “she saw the unions and passed legislation, but it was quite another matter and she had a wind in her sail.”

Sunak has no such wind. His government has pursued allegationswith corruptionThe economic outlook is bleak. The International Monetary Fund predicted on Tuesday that the UK will be the only major global economy to slip into recession in 2023.

Britain’s Rishi Sunak intervened in the Tory investigation

The audience divided on strikes, with strong support from nurses, ambulance staff, firefighters and, to a lesser extent, teachers. Driving examiners, university employees and civil servants have less support. Research by YouGov found that support for the procedure was not associated with the disruption caused, but with workers’ perceived contribution to society and whether they were underpaid.

Today’s successive waves of strikes, Fielding said, are much broader than those of the late 1970s. “It was intense, but after a relatively few months. It’s been happening since the summer. And it’s spiraling into parts of the economy that were untouched in the ’70s. It’s not just bin men. They’re professors and doctors and firefighters and ambulance drivers, and everybody’s on strike.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.