Strikes caused 1.5million days to be lost over the winter

Strikes caused 1.5million days to be lost over the winter, as hundreds of thousands of workers join latest Walkout Wednesday tomorrow

  • ONS said 220,000 days were lost in January as well as 822,000 in December
  • This week will see strikes from tube and train operators, doctors and teachers

Britain has lost more than 1.5million working days to a string of industrial disputes.

The Office for National Statistics says 220,000 days were lost to strikes in January, added to 822,000 in December and 462,000 in November.

And the huge scale of disruption across whole swathes of the economy – from rail and postal workers to NHS staff and teachers – shows little sign of abating.

This is in spite of figures showing public sector pay growth of 4.8 per cent in those months – the strongest since the New Labour era in 2006 if the pandemic period is disregarded. 

Private sector workers did better with pay up by 7 per cent, but the gap between the two is narrowing. However, everyone feels poorer as double-digit inflation eats into the value of wages.

The strikes news comes a day before the Budget and as ministers face pressure to settle public sector disputes by putting up pay – as well as separate demands to ease the tax burden on struggling businesses and to give the armed forces a much-needed boost in defence spending.

The Office for National Statistics says 220,000 days were lost to strikes in January. Pictured: British Medical Association members picket outside University College Hospital on March 14

The huge scale of disruption across whole swathes of the economy shows little sign of abating. Pictured: Junior Doctors strikes rally at Downing Street on March 13

General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Mick Lynch joins a rally and protest outside the Houses of Parliament on March 14

Schools forced to close 

Hundreds of schools in England are set to close today as teachers join university staff in two days of mass pay strikes dubbed ‘Walkout Wednesday’.

Members of the National Education Union will join 70,000 members of the University and College Union also staging industrial action at 150 sites.

GCSE and A-level pupils will be among those facing disruption while thousands of parents face taking days off work to look after their children.

NEU leaders have spurned Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s pledge to enter formal talks on pay and conditions if they pause the strikes.

But they face new pressure after two other unions said they had positive talks with Mrs Keegan on Monday and believe progress can be made.

Strikes due this week include a walkout on London’s Tube trains today and stoppages on other rail lines tomorrow and on Saturday.

Teachers are striking in England today and tomorrow and there is also a three-day walk-out by junior doctors this week.

Yesterday, a senior health chief warned that the NHS cannot ‘go on like this’ and urged the Government to strike a deal with the unions as soon as possible.

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers said: ‘Unlike previous strikes, it’s noticeable that there has been no let-up in the demand for care.

‘Senior doctors are stepping into the breach but it isn’t business as usual. The knock-on effects of a three-day strike will be felt for a long time to come,’ he added.

Multiple rows over pay and conditions have been rumbling on for months across many different parts of the economy.

Last year the number of days lost to strikes totalled 2.47million, the highest level since 1989 when Margaret Thatcher was in power and more than 4million days were lost.

It was even worse earlier in the decade with more than 27million days lost in 1984. The disruption peaked in 1979 with more than 29million days lost, including 12million in September alone that year. The new figures pale in comparison, but show a steadily worsening pattern since last summer.

In August, 357,000 days were lost and in September it was 210,000 while October saw the number tick up to 422,000.

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