More strikes are likely this fall, threatening unprecedented disruption across a range of industries. teacher, Doctors and nurses are expected to vote on strike action in the coming weeks. The union was even able to coordinate a strike. Unite and Unison are the nation’s largest trade unions with a total of 2.7 million members and invite others to join in the synchronized action.
This is one of the most significant waves of industrial unrest Britain has seen since the ‘winter of discontent’ of the late 1970s. According to the National Statistics Office, approximately 7.9 million working days were lost between November 1978 and February 1979.
And the average household utility bill, which has already risen 54% this year, is set to rise another 80% to £3,549 ($4,124) in October. Research firm Auxilione estimates that the average bill could reach £7,700 ($8,949) next April, equivalent to £642 ($746) a month.
Workers are mobilizing to respond.
Britain has never seen [this] It’s the level of disruption in all sectors,” Chiara Benassi, associate professor of comparative employment relations at King’s College London, told CNN Business.
“These strikes not only affect [what] we will say [are] There are not only manual and low-skilled jobs that clearly suffer from a cost of living crisis, but also highly skilled jobs such as junior doctors, British Telecom engineers, barristers, academics and teachers,” Benassi said. said Mr.
Deepsha Agrawal, a junior doctor at Oxford University Hospital, told CNN Business that his colleagues are pushing for a bigger pay rise than the 2% the government agreed to in 2019.
“The current inflation rate is expected to be very high next year, so it’s very demoralizing,” she said.
Her union, the British Medical Association, will soon vote on whether to strike. Agrawal believes it will. Many of her colleagues feel they cannot afford to buy a home or have children.
“[Junior doctors] Hardworking and educated like any other professional. We are struggling and paying out of pocket to do the work we do,” she said.
“With what happened during Covid, we should be rewarded for what we do, rather than being punished for what we do every day,” Agrawal added.
few union members
The current wave of industrial action cannot be easily compared to the 1970s and 1980s. That’s only because the government stopped tracking the number of workers who went on strike and the number of workdays lost during his Covid-19 pandemic. We recently resumed collecting data and will provide an update this month.
Richard Hyman, a professor at the London School of Economics, told CNN Business that this year’s strikes will pale in comparison to previous decades, simply because union membership has fallen dramatically.
“Around 1980, more than half of trade unions were unionized. Hyman said.
Strikes were once concentrated in the following areas: “almost gone” Like coal mines and steel, Hyman added. Membership is now heavily skewed toward the public sector, or large utility companies that were once government-owned.
“We are not in a position to go on strike because there are no decent jobs available because of the increasing proportion of workers with precarious jobs,” Hyman added.
In the 1980s, when British manufacturing was shrinking rapidly, strikes were often about the survival of key sectors, Benassi said.
In 1984-1985, thousands of miners went on strike after Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government threatened to close many of the country’s mines.
“[Today] Since we are only talking about salary, it is a little different. Of course, the controversy at the time was also about wages, but it was also about not closing mines, for example,” she said.
But this year’s wave of strikes is significant because of the breadth of industries affected and the hoops British workers have to jump through to legally take down their tools.
“It’s very difficult to strike in the UK, especially since the 2016 Trade Union Bill, more so than anywhere in Western Europe,” she said.
The law, which came into effect in 2017, made it much more difficult for trade unions to call strikes. At least 50% of the members shall participate in the voting and at least 40% of the votes cast shall be in favor of the strike action. The law also extended the period within which trade unions must notify employers of their intention to strike from he one week to he two weeks.
By contrast, Benassi said Germany does not require a vote or notice period.
Britain’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, who is likely to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister next week, said she would further restrict unions’ power to call strikes.
She proposed increasing the support threshold for strike action from 40% to 50% of the votes cast and extending the notice period to one month.
Liz Truss’ Leadership Campaign declined to comment when contacted by CNN Business.
“There has been a rather hostile campaign from the government, claiming that temporary workers will be sent to replace the striking workers, that they must return to work immediately, and that wages have already been raised. ing” Manuela Garrett, Associate Professor of Employment Relations at the University of Warwick Business School, told CNN Business.
Despite the obstacles, workers may strike more boldly at this time given the tight labor market, she said.
The unemployment rate in the UK was 3.8% from April to June this year, according to ONS data. This is the lowest level in more than 50 years. He also had a record low of one unemployed person per job opening.
“It means that many workers are working and are in a good position to seek [a pay] gain.not easily replaceable [at a macro level]said Garrett.