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Sunday, April 2, 2023

UK faces biggest strike day in a decade


Teachers, railway workers, civil servants, university lecturers… Up to half a million people could strike on Wednesday in the UK to demand pay rises as the British face a major cost of living crisis.

A historic strike day: the United Kingdom is preparing on Wednesday, February 1 for another day of action, the largest in a decade, in a country in the grip of an economic crisis fueled by inflation.

Up to half a million people could strike on Wednesday, on the eve of the date marking the first hundred restless days of the conservative government of Rishi Sunak. The TUC trade union federation warned that it would be “the biggest day of strikes since 2011”.

The disruptions will be strong, both in transport and schools, but will affect the whole economy, by domino effect for the British, even non-strikers, forced to stay at home to look after their children or by impossibility of going to their workplace.

Travelers passing through British airports are also at risk of seeing their travel disrupted by a strike by immigration officials.

“I really wouldn’t love anything so much […] than having a magic wand and paying you all more,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Monday during a visit to health sector workers, who plan to continue their actions in the coming days.

But according to him, wage increases would fuel inflation and deteriorate public finances, which have already deteriorated since the pandemic and the energy crisis.

On the other side of the Channel on Tuesday, strikes and demonstrations took place again in France, mainly against the contested pension reform.

Inflation that exceeds 10%

In the UK, some 23,000 schools are expected to experience disruption on Wednesday in the first of seven days of walkouts planned by the NEU teachers’ union.

To maximize the impact of their movement, the teachers’ representatives considered that it was “completely appropriate” that professors or teachers do not reveal their intentions in advance to the leaders of the establishments.

“The government refuses to discuss the causes of the strike,” NEU secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney said in a statement.

According to them, the lack of salary increases leads to problems in recruiting and retaining staff, which “disrupts the education of children every day”.

Strikers across sectors are demanding wages in line with inflation, which is hitting 10.5% in the UK and eating away at disposable incomes, pushing millions of Britons into poverty.

And according to the latest IMF forecasts, the country will be the only major economy to suffer a recession this year, with a contraction of 0.6% of its GDP.

New walkout in the rail scheduled for Friday

The standoff also relates to working conditions, pensions or the government’s desire to limit the right to strike.

The movement has been going on since the spring. In the month of November alone, the National Statistics Office (ONS) counted 467,000 working days lost due to social conflicts, a record since 2011, when nearly a million cumulative strike days were counted.

Since June 2022, 1.6 million working days have been “lost”, continues the statistical institute.

The rail union TSSA, however, gave hope for a breakthrough, indicating in a press release on Tuesday that it had received “two formal offers” more substantial than the previous ones, which are now being studied by its executive committee.

Meanwhile, a new walkout in the rail is scheduled for Friday, while firefighters voted in favor of a first strike in twenty years.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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