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LONDON (AFP) – On Wednesday, the United Kingdom prepares for a new day of strike action, the biggest in a decade in a country rocked by an inflation-fueled economic crisis, with a move that will affect school and university education sectors and railway workers.
Half a million people in England will take part in a strike on Wednesday to mark 100 years since the formation of Rishi Sunak’s Conservative government. The Trade Union Congress warned that it would be the “biggest strike day since 2011”.
Strikes affect transport, schools and the economy as a whole, and the consequences affect all Britons, those who are not on strike, who are forced to stay at home to look after their children or who are unable to get to their place of work.
At Farrington train station in central London, many say they decide to work from home or take a day off to avoid the hassle.
Katie Webb, 23, who works for a charity, says she will work remotely after rearranging her schedule on Wednesday, adding: “I support the strikes, railway workers deserve better pay.”
For project manager Sebastian Webb (48), he feels the many strikes that have affected work at the railway in recent months have also affected his personal life.
He says, “I canceled an appointment for Wednesday (…) and will stay in Cambridge where I live,” adding that most of his clients are in London or Peterborough, noting that “train journeys will continue to be cancelled.”
Passengers traveling through British airports could also be affected by a strike by immigration staff.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, visiting health workers on Monday who plan to continue their strike in the coming days, said: “I only wish I had a magic wand (…) to give you more pay.”
However, he also feels that raising wages will contribute to inflation and a collapse in public finances, which have been facing difficulties since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the energy crisis.
Impact on schools
In England, nearly 23,000 schools are expected to be affected by strikes on Wednesday, the first of seven days of strikes planned by the National Education Union.
Teachers’ representatives consider it “absolutely appropriate” for teachers or teachers not to communicate their intentions in advance to directors of institutions.
“The government is avoiding discussing the reasons for the strike,” the two general secretaries of the National Education Association, Mary Boustedt and Kevin Courtney, said in a statement.
Not increasing salaries leads to problems with recruitment and retention of staff, which they felt “disrupts children’s education every day”.
Strikers across a range of sectors are calling for higher wages in line with the 10.5% rise in inflation in the UK, which is pushing millions of Britons into poverty.
The latest forecasts from the International Monetary Fund indicate that the UK will be the only major economy to experience a recession this year, with GDP shrinking by 0.6%.
The strikers are also protesting against government efforts to limit working conditions, the pension system and the right to strike.
Lost business days
The protest movement has been going on since spring. In November alone, the Office for National Statistics recorded 467,000 working days lost due to strikes, the highest since 2011.
Since June 2022, the Census Bureau has recorded 1.6 million “lost” work days.
However, the railway union expressed hope for progress, noting in a statement on Tuesday that “two formal offers” are more important than the previous one and are currently being considered by its executive committee.
Meanwhile, a new strike in the railway sector is planned to be organized from Friday, while firemen have voted in favor of a strike, the first in twenty years.
© 2023 AFP
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