The unions expect half a million strikers. Teachers, railway workers, civil servants, university lecturers… The United Kingdom, in the grip of an economic crisis fueled by inflation, is preparing, Wednesday 1er February, to another day of strikes on an unprecedented scale for a decade.
On the eve of the hundredth day of the conservative government of Rishi Sunak, the TUC trade union federation promises “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 place of work. work. Travelers passing through British airports are also at risk of seeing their travel disrupted by a strike in the immigration services.
“I really wouldn’t like anything so much (…) than having a magic wand and paying you all more”, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak assured Monday during a visit to health sector employees, who plan to continue their actions in the coming days. According to him, wage increases would fuel inflation and deteriorate public finances, which have already deteriorated since the pandemic and the energy crisis.
Some 23,000 schools are expected to experience disruption on Wednesday in a first day of seven walkouts planned by the NEU teachers’ union. To maximize the impact of their movement, teacher representatives felt it was “completely appropriate” that professors or teachers do not reveal their intentions in advance to the leaders of the establishments.
Recession in sight
“The government refuses to discuss the causes of the strike”, NEU secretaries Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney lamented in a statement. According to them, the lack of salary increases leads to recruitment problems, which “disrupts the education of children every day”.
The strikers in the various sectors are asking for increases in priority to compensate for inflation, which has reached 10.5%. According to the latest IMF forecasts, the United Kingdom will be the only major economic power to suffer a recession in 2023, with a contraction of 0.6% of its GDP.
The standoff also relates to working conditions, pensions or government plans 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 counted 467,000 working days lost due to labor disputes, an unprecedented figure since 2011. Nearly a million days of strikes had been counted then. Since June 2022, 1.6 million working days have been “lost”.
The rail union TSSA, however, held out hope for progress, 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. In the meantime, a new walkout in the rail is scheduled for Friday, while firefighters voted in favor of a first strike in twenty years.