UK faces fresh mass strikes as wage talks derail

Published : 01 Feb 2023 08:26 PM | Updated : 01 Feb 2023 08:28 PM

Teachers and train drivers dominate a fresh round of UK-wide strikes Wednesday aimed at securing pay rises that would ease a cost-of-living crisis caused by soaring inflation.

Large disruption to education and commuter travel is anticipated in the latest mass stoppages by public and private sector workers as the government and company bosses stand firm over wage demands. The UK is set to see Wednesday the "biggest day of strike action since 2011", with up to 500,000 workers planning industrial action, according to umbrella group the Trades Union Congress (TUC). Others on strike include border force workers carrying out immigration and customs checks at UK air and sea ports. Britain has witnessed months of strikes from tens of thousands of workers -- including also by postal staff, lawyers, nurses and employees in the retail sector -- as UK inflation raced above 11 percent, the highest level in more than 40 years.

- 'No magic wand' -

"I would love, nothing would give me more pleasure than, to wave a magic wand and have all of you paid lots more," Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Monday on a visit to public health workers, who are planning further walk-outs in the coming days and weeks.

"An important part of us getting a grip of inflation and halving it is making sure the government's responsible with its borrowing, because if that gets out of control that makes it worse and it's about making pay settlements reasonable and fair," Sunak added.

The latest official data shows 1.6 million working days were lost in the June-November period last year because of strikes -- the highest six-month total in more than three decades, according to the Office for National Statistics.

A total 467,000 working days were lost to walkouts in November alone, the highest level since 2011, the ONS added.