UK: Worst Strikes in a Decade Close Schools, Cripple Rail Network

    UK: Worst Strikes in a Decade Close Schools, Cripple Rail Network
    Last updated Feb 01, 2023
    Image credit: EPA-EFE/Shutterstock [via CNN]


    • Some 475k union members in the UK went on strike on Wednesday, demanding pay raises in response to the cost of living crisis. Major train stations in London completely closed, and roughly 85% of schools in England and Wales either fully or partially closed.[1]
    • Teachers, university staff, train drivers, and civil servants stopped working as the Trades Union Congress, representing 48 unions, also launched over 75 rallies across the country in response to a government bill it calls an "attack" on the right to strike.[2]
    • The bill in question — approved by MPs by a vote of 315 to 246 on Tuesday — would require basic service levels be upheld in the rail industry and emergency services in the event of strikes. It now moves to the House of Lords for further review.[3]
    • The strikes, expected to be the largest in over a decade, come as the public sector union members saw pay raises of less than 5% last year compared to inflation rates above 10%. More than 100k teachers from 23k schools in England and Wales are expected to strike.[4]
    • Commuters will also face disruptions as 15 train operators are expected to halt operations on Thursday and Friday. Rail union TSSA on Wednesday received two formal offers and is now deciding whether to bring them to its members.[5]
    • Last year's strikes cost the UK an estimated £1.5B ($1.85) in the final quarter of 2022, and the economy is projected to shrink further in the first quarter of 2023, leaving PM Rishi Sunak's government searching for answers as it faces approval ratings of under 50%.[1]


    Left narrative

    Historically low wages call for historically massive strikes. Adjusted for inflation, public sector workers today are making £203 ($250) less per month than in 2010, and the government is now trying to strip their only way of bargaining for a living wage. If Sunak's government really wants to help the working class, his ministers should focus on putting more money in their pockets rather than ridiculing the only form of self-empowerment they have.

    Right narrative

    This is being represented as a massive, unified national strike when, in reality, obscure government departments that aren't as crucial as train drivers and teachers are being lumped together with essential workers to bolster its impression. Even regarding essential workers, the unions conveniently left out that they continued to get paid during the pandemic — even if they didn't work — while private sector workers were left out to dry. While pay has certainly lagged behind inflation, increases need to be accompanied by productivity, which has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

    Political split



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