Schools remained closed, trains and other public transport did not move, and staff were absent from state offices and various public services. These are the images that sum up the impact of what some are calling a ‘mega strike’ in the UK.
More than half a million workers are estimated to have joined the strike to stage the largest union protest recorded in the UK in the last decade. One has to go back to 2011 to find a similar strike when more than a million public sector workers organized a one-day strike over a pension dispute.
This Wednesday there was a joint appeal that coordinated several strikes called by several unions grouped in the TUC trade union federation. The request is for a wage increase in the face of a worrying 14% rise in the cost of living and against the Conservative Party’s attacks on the right to strike, which are asking above all for the repeal of the labor law project to further restrict the right to strike This last statement is what gives the strike a more political character.
Among the sectors that went on strike were railway workers, train drivers belonging to the ASLEF and RMT (Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers) unions, teachers united in the National Education Union (National Education Union, NEU), 70,000 workers teachers, librarians, and researchers More than 150 universities will join a demonstration by the University and College Union (UCU).
Although each sector also has its needs, these come together in the demand for wage increases to beat inflation which has exceeded 10% for months (10.5% in December), which leads many working families to depend on food banks to feed.
This situation is what led to several months of strikes in various sectors, including by nurses who staged their first nationwide strike in the more than 100-year history of their union in December.
Strikes have been going on for months in the UK, and although in many cases this affects the lives of millions of people who use public transport or other services, support for the protests continues to be the majority. 59% of Britons supported the nurses’ strike and 43% backed teachers, according to a Public First poll published by Politico.
Student parent organizations said in a statement Wednesday that they were “supporting” the movement, emphasizing “the consequences of years of underfunding” in schools.
The response from conservative Rishi Sunak’s government to the negotiations remains tough, insisting that there is no money to grant the wage increases requested. For example, in the healthcare sector, it has refused to increase its supply by between 4.5% and 5%, while inflation has skyrocketed to 14%. The railway sector was offered 9% over two years, a proposal which was rejected by the workers.
Despite the union leaders’ policy of refusing to call for joint action by all struggling sectors and for an indefinite period until their demands are met, workers continue to vote for new actions day after day and in each of them, solidarity is felt. This Wednesday’s mega strike was an expression of the strength that the workers have and that it is possible to succeed and realize their demands.
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