Railway and postal workers, dockworkers too. British workers are on strike in large numbers as decades-high inflation erodes the value of wages.
The rail network faced major further disruption this week in major walkouts following the sector’s biggest strike in 30 years. Tens of thousands of staff are expected to strike for two days, leaving skeletal service that will hit holidaymakers and commuters alike.
The London Underground is expected to be hit by a strike on Saturday, ahead of an eight-day stoppage of dockworkers at Felixstowe, Britain’s biggest freight port.
“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to defend jobs, wages and conditions during this cost of living crisis,” Sharon Graham, leader of main union Unite, said this week.
Official data this week showed UK inflation hit a 40-year high above single digits as soaring food and energy prices hurt millions of British.
Things are set to get worse under a new Prime Minister as Boris Johnson prepares to step down.
The Bank of England expects inflation to hit 13% this year, plunging the UK economy into a deep and lasting recession.
“This record fall in real wages demonstrates the vital need for unions to defend the value of workers’ compensation,” Graham said, while denouncing suggestions, including from Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, that wage increases fueled inflation.
“Wages are not the driver of inflation,” she insisted ahead of the latest UK inflation data which showed soaring food prices was the main factor behind the rise. outbreak last month.
Inflation has soared around the world this year due to rising energy prices, fueled by the invasion of Ukraine by major oil and gas producer Russia.
Some proposed strikes were scrapped after unions and companies agreed eleventh-hour wage deals. But while British Airways ground staff and refuellers at Heathrow have abandoned proposed walkouts, other sectors are holding firm.
More than 115,000 UK postal workers are planning a four-day strike from the end of this month. Telecoms giant BT is facing its first shutdown in 35 years and walkouts have recently taken place or are planned by Amazon warehouse staff, criminal lawyers and garbage collectors.
Britain’s main business lobby group, the CBI, this week acknowledged workers’ ‘continuing struggle against rising costs like energy prices’ and said employers were ‘doing their best to support staff “. However, he also claimed that “the vast majority” of companies “cannot afford salary increases large enough to keep up with inflation”.
On Britain’s partly privatized rail sector, unions accuse Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of failing to help break the deadlock.
Shapps is part of the Conservative government which recently changed a law to allow agency staff to fill gaps caused by strikes, further angering the RMT railway union.
Analysts expect the sector-wide shutdowns to continue as inflation continues to rise. It comes as teachers and health workers hint at walkouts, should they not receive acceptable new salary offers. —AFP