UK suffers worst strikes in 30 years as unions plan more action

Some 467,000 working days were lost to strikes in November, a 10-year-high. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Britain was in the grip of its worst industrial strife in more than 30 years even before the rail network and postal service ground to a halt over the festive period.

Some 467,000 working days were lost to strikes in November, a 10-year-high, after a wave of walkouts caused by the most severe cost-of-living crisis in a generation.

Days lost over a six-month period reached the highest level since 1989-90.

The Office for National Statistics said the transport, communications and education sectors drove the industrial unrest, with pay disputes intensifying in December and January.

Health service, postal and rail staff have walked out over pay in recent months, with more strikes planned - including by teachers, bus drivers and civil servants - in the coming weeks.

“The period since June has now seen more days lost than in any six months for over 30 years,” said Mr Darren Morgan, the ONS’s director of economic statistics.

Over 1.6 million working days have been lost since June.

The number of hours worked fell by 1 per cent on the quarter, partially caused by industrial action as the UK government and some other employers struggled to agree pay deals with unions.

It came as pay - both including and excluding bonuses - fell by 2.6 per cent year-on-year in real terms after wages failed to keep pace with double-digit inflation.

“In the context of ongoing cuts to the standard of living, industrial unrest is likely to continue for some time to come,” said Dr Helen Gray, chief economist at the Learning and Work Institute.

“The figures do not currently include the wave of strikes seen across the public sector in December and January.” BLOOMBERG

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