Thousands of schools closed some or all of their classrooms, rail services are to be ground to a standstill and airport delays were reported on Wednesday in what is shaping up to be Britain’s biggest strike in more than a decade, as unions intensify pressure on the government to demand salary improvements in the midst of the cost of living crisis.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC), a federation of trade unions, estimates that up to half a million workers, including teachers, university staff, civil servants, border guards and train and bus drivers, will walk away from their jobs. in all the country.
More actions are planned for the next few days, including those of nurses and ambulance workers.
Britons have been suffering from problems in their daily lives for months due to the bitter dispute between unions and government over wages and working conditions. But Wednesday’s walkouts are a preview of protests in multiple key sectors.
The last time the country saw a mass work stoppage on this scale was in 2011, when more than a million workers joined a one-day strike in a dispute over pensions.
Union officials say that despite some wage hikes — like the government’s proposed 5% offer to teachers — wages in the public sector have not kept pace with rising inflation, meaning workers have lost purchasing power. The Trades Union Congress said on Wednesday that, on average, a public sector worker lost 203 pounds ($250) a month compared to 2010, taking inflation into account.
In Britain, inflation is running at 10.5% — the highest in 40 years — fueled by sharp increases in food and energy. Although some experts expect price rises to slow this year, the British economic outlook remains grim. The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday Britain will be the only major economy to contract this year, underperforming sanctions-haunted Russia.
Nicola Hawkins, an elementary school teacher, said the strike was the only way to shine a spotlight on chronic underfunding in public schools and to draw the government’s attention. “It is very difficult to make the decision to go on strike, but I have come to the conclusion that, in reality, it is in the best interest of