Hundreds of thousands UK workers strike over the holidays

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This December, trade unions in various sectors of the United Kingdom held strikes for decent wages and humane working conditions. An estimate of 500,000 to one million workers are to go on strike up to the end of the year. These are part of outbreak of workers’ struggles in the country since June. According to The Guardian, around 1.1 million workdays were lost between June and October due to labor strikes.

Last December 13, 40,000 members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) launched their strike against low wages. Railroad workers rejected the companies’ offer of a 5% wage increase for 2022 and 4% for 2023. They called the offer “substandard,” especially in the face of the country’s rising cost of living.

The RMT operates 14 companies that run trains. They launched the first wave of strikes on December 13 and 14, and the second wave on December 16 and 17. They will continue their mass actions until 2023.

On December 15, 100,000 nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland launched the first national nurses’ strike in the United Kingdom. The Royal College of Nurses is demanding a 19% pay rise and the hiring of additional nurses in hospitals to ensure patient safety. They are part of the public health system (National Health Services or NHS) which has been suffering for several years from low wages, overwork and insufficient state subsidies. Another 24-hour strike was launched on December 20.

The nurses were joined by 10,000 ambulance drivers, paramedics and other emergency workers, who are set to strike on December 21 and 28. They are protesting the NHS’ refusal to hand over the 4% pay rise already approved by their government.

Before December, Royal Mail workers and the University and College Union (teachers and other academic staff) representing 150 universities carried out pickets and strikes. On December 5, 1,000 guards of banks and financial institutions went on strike.

In Scotland, the Scottish Secondary Teachers Association and other teachers’ unions went on a 2-day strike. In London, 2,000 bus drivers are planning to strike as their companies continue to refuse more acceptable pay increases.

Over the past decade, there has been minimal, if any, pay rise for workers in the UK. This is while their housing bills and services and commodity prices continually increased. In April, the real value of their wages fell by 3% due to 10.1% inflation. It further fell by October when the inflation rate was recorded at 11.1%. The country’s economists fear that it will soar to 18% next year.

Hundreds of thousands UK workers strike over the holidays