Teachers, civil servants, train and bus drivers among other employees in the United Kingdom go on strike in what is the biggest day of protests in the country in more than a decade. Nearly 500,000 people are expected to demonstrate. They are asking for salary improvements in the face of the skyrocketing inflation in the country and they are also protesting against the law that the Government is processing to provide itself with minimum services in the event of strikes in key sectors.
The United Kingdom is facing a labor conflict that has been dragging on since last summer with massive strikes in the railway sector. In recent months they have spread to other sectors and for this reason today is the most important day, due to the number of workers who support it and the variety of sectors that support it. Prime Minister’s Conservative Government Rishi Sunak recognizes that there will be problems due to the scope of the massive strike and that members of at least seven unions have voted in favor of these stoppages.
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Who goes on strike? During today’s day they manifest:
- Education: Compulsory education teachers in England and Wales belonging to the National Education Union (NEU) second the strike. It is expected that 23,000 schools will be affected by the first of seven strikes called by teachers. Likewise, higher education teachers belonging to 150 universities of the University and College Union (UCU) have announced 18 days of strike in February and March.
- Transport: thousands of ASLEF and RMT train drivers are called to strike. Their involvement is expected to cause disruptions to transportation services across the country. The ASLEF union is the representative of machinists, locomotive engineers and firefighters. The RMT is the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union. He works for Network Rail, a public body that has the largest rail network in England, Scotland and Wales. He is also the spokesperson for 14 private rail companies.
- Civil Service: More than 100,000 civil servants are on strike in 124 government departments according to Guardian. They are summoned by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union.
- For next week the Health sector will join: they will call strikes from February 6 and for 10 days. As reported by Europa Press, ambulance teams from cities such as London and Yorkshire are expected to participate, in addition to doctors.
That they ask for?
- Education: they demand better wages and working conditions. Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “There has been a really catastrophic long-term decline in education wages over the last 12 years.” According to Reuters, declining wages mean that many young people no longer choose this profession or leave it, which means an increased workload and greater difficulties for those who stay.
- Transport: they ask for salary improvements in the face of inflation, of almost 11% in the United Kingdom. They demand a 7% wage increase, but Network Rail has only offered them a 5% increase. A figure that is below inflation and for which the workers have decided to go out and demonstrate.
- Civil service: they also ask for an increase in their salaries. The general secretary of the PCS union, Matk Serwotka, explains that the government workers themselves are on strike because civil servants have had the lowest wage increase in their entire economy. A 2% increase when inflation is in double digits.
- Health: the sector, especially hit by the pandemic, calls for an improvement in working conditions and wages. Although the workers of the National Health Service (NHS) will not go on strike until next week, they announce that the informative meetings held with the Government to negotiate the increase in wages have been paralyzed.
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These massive protests have led the UK government to process a law to provide itself with certain minimum services in the event of strikes in key sectors. The new bill would apply to England, Scotland and Wales and would require minimum service levels for key industries, even on strike days. This means some workers would have to remain in service in sectors such as healthcare, transportation, fire service, border enforcement, nuclear power, and education. The new rule would allow suing unions and dismissing public sector employees who do not comply with this new regulation.
- The UK government argues that other EU countries such as Germany and France have minimum levels of security and want to ensure they are doing the same to protect the British people and that there will be a provision to negotiate with the unions on the definition of “minimum services”, a measure of last resort.
- However, Angela Rayner, Vice-Chairperson of the Labor Party says it is one of the most “indefensible and silly” bills to come before this House in modern times. She says that meeting minimum service levels would mean that some people would never be able to retire from their job.
- Also the TUC, which brings together more than 5.5 million workers from 48 unions, expose that the government has accelerated the bill without adequate controls, and say that it has not been published how the regulations will work, in addition to the fact that there are very little detail on how the minimum service levels are intended to operate. Some unions promise to take legal action if the law passes both houses of parliament.
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