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Mass walkouts across Britain as unions up pay pressure

by News Desk
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London –

Thousands of UK schools will close some or all of their classrooms, paralyze train services and airports to offer better wages amid a cost-of-living crisis with expected delays.

The Trade Union Congress, a trade union federation, estimated that up to 500,000 workers, including teachers, university staff, civil servants, border guards, and train drivers, went on strike across the country.

More strikes are planned over the next few days and weeks, including among nurses and paramedics.

Months of strikes have disrupted daily life for Britons amid lingering bitter disputes between trade unions and the government over wages and working conditions. Simultaneous strikes across multiple industries on Wednesday marked an escalation of union protests.

The last time a major strike of this magnitude was seen was in 2011, when well over a million public sector workers went on strike for a day over a dispute over pensions. Wednesday’s strike involved a wide variety of people, from museum workers and London bus drivers to Coast Guard officers and passport-his-booth staff at the airport. The British Museum was closed on Wednesday because of the strike.

Union officials said that despite several wage increases, including the government’s proposed 5% pay rise for teachers, the UK’s rapid inflation has left many public sector workers in financial distress as wages have not kept pace. Teachers, health care workers and many others say wages have fallen substantially over the past decade and that the surge in the cost of living that began last year has exacerbated the problem. increase.

Taking inflation into account, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) said on Wednesday that the average public sector worker is £203 (US$250) worse a month than in 2010.

Inflation in the UK is at 10.5%, the highest in 40 years as food and energy costs skyrocket. Some expect inflation to slow this year, but the outlook for the UK economy remains grim. The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday that the country would be the only major economy to contract this year, worse than sanctioned Russia.

About 23,000 schools will be affected on Wednesday, with an estimated 85% closing completely or partially, according to the National Education Union.

“The government is shrinking our education (system), underfunding schools and paying less to those who work in them,” said NEU co-secretary-general Kevin Courtney. “Because in primary schools where you can’t find assistants with special needs, they’re working in supermarkets where they pay better. It’s pushing people to take action.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told parliamentarians that the teachers’ strike was “wrong” and claimed his government had already given teachers the biggest wage increase in 30 years.

“Our children’s education is precious and they deserve to go to school today.

His office argued that higher wages for public sector workers would be unaffordable for taxpayers and could lead to higher taxes, more government borrowing, or cut spending elsewhere.

Trade union leaders have accused the government of refusing to negotiate and offer enough to stop the strike.

Workers were also angered by the government’s plans to introduce new laws aimed at curbing the disruption of the strike by enforcing minimum service levels in key sectors such as health care and transport. .Trade unions have criticized the law as an attack on the right to strike

Lawmakers backed the bill on Monday. Thousands of people gathered in London, Manchester and other cities on Wednesday to protest the proposal.

TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said industry unrest will continue until the government presents an offer of acceptable wages.

“The message to the government is that this will not go away. These problems will not magically disappear,” he said.

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