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UK’s Trade Unions Up In Arms, Healthcare, Transport And Schools Brace For Impact

UK braces for massive strikes; seven trade unions to go on strike today

The United Kingdom is undergoing the most extensive wave of industrial dispute it has witnessed in years, with workers marching off the job in several areas such as healthcare, transport, and schools. This is the most comprehensive wave of union activity it has witnessed in decades.

It’s shaping up to be the most crucial day of industrial action Britain has seen in more than ten years, with thousands of schools in the UK closing some or all of their classrooms, train services shut down, and delays anticipated at airports. Unions are exerting more strain on the administration to request more compensation in the face of a cost-of-living catastrophe decimating the personal budgets of most Britons.

According to the Trades Union Congress, a federation of unions, up to 500,000 people, including teachers, university employees, government employees, border agents, and train and bus drivers, walked out of their jobs on Wednesday. More action on the part of workers, such as nurses and ambulance personnel, is scheduled to take place in the following days and weeks.

WHAT IS CAUSING THE CURRENT STAKES?

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Pay is the primary cause of the turmoil. Pay increases in the UK have slowed since the global financial crisis. While it has recovered somewhat in the second half of the 2010s, public-sector workers have seen lesser raises resulting in negligible or negative real-term wage growth.

With CPI rising by double digits in the past year, the wage gap between the public and private sectors has widened dramatically. In the three months ending in November, the private sector pays increased by 7.1% over the same period last year, while the average public sector pay rose by 3.3%.

Railroad employees, paramedics, and nurses are frequently involved in highly disruptive labour disputes that affect partially or entirely public industries like transportation and healthcare. The cost of living problem that resulted from Britain’s current 10% inflation rate—the highest rate in 40 years—outpaced most public salary offers and forced some people with jobs to turn to food banks.

Many unions claim that during the past ten years, there has only been minimal growth, which has further exacerbated the impacts of the recent high inflation brought on by increasing energy prices and the pandemic’s aftereffects.

Which significant strikes are happening right now?

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Only on Wednesday did some 500,000 workers go on strike, but many industries have been affected. While some private sector workers, including bus drivers and employees at container ports, have achieved salary agreements with employers following strikes, numerous public sector conflicts still exist. Teachers, civil servants, nurses, and railroad employees call for wage increases that keep up with or exceed inflation and some pledges about working conditions.

A wage award above inflation funded entirely by the government is requested by the union representing teachers in the publicly funded school system. It has proposed a 5% wage increase for the most seasoned instructors, to be financed by the current budgets of the schools. About 100,000 government employees, including Border Force airport staff and driving licence office employees, have also been staging strikes protesting their demand for a 10% pay increase.

WAS THERE A RESPONSE FROM THE GOVERNMENT?

The British government has urged unions to call off strikes while it holds negotiations with them. Britain’s government seeks independent pay body recommendations before determining public salary hikes. It has maintained that salary increases that keep pace with inflation will lead to additional price hikes, higher interest rates, and higher mortgage payments.

The pressure on the public purse is increasing at the same time that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration is adopting a package of tax increases and spending cuts to restore the public finances and manage inflation. Additionally, the government is introducing legislation to provide a minimum safety service during rail, ambulance, and fireman strikes. Unions have criticised the proposal for undermining the freedom to strike.

WHAT EFFECT HAVE THE STRIKES HAD

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Cities’ hotel industries have suffered dramatically due to frequent train strikes, which have caused tourists to stay home and disrupted commuters’ daily routines. On a day when ambulance personnel were on strike, a government minister advised Britons to stay away from dangerous outdoor sports.

According to the consultancy Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), the six months from June to November witnessed the most days lost to strike activity in more than 30 years. According to the CEBR, during eight months in 2017, strikes and the indirect cost of worker absenteeism spurred on by rail strikes cost the economy a minimum of 1.7 billion pounds, a minor amount of the economy’s total annual productivity of over 2 trillion pounds.

The economic impact of the teachers’ strikes was also estimated to be around 20 million pounds per day in direct lost output. However, that number did not account for the disruption caused by working parents.

HOW LONG WILL THE STRIKES LAST?

Even though unions, businesses, and the government engage in negotiations, most of the most significant industrial disputes continue. There are hints that the disagreement between railroad employees and their employers is slowly ending.

The health minister has described the nurses’ compensation requests as unaffordable, despite the nursing union’s expressed desire to meet the government halfway in pay negotiations. The teachers and the public servants are still engaged in continuing labour disputes, and both groups are preparing for multiple days of strike action.

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