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Outgoing Boris Johnson Government Passes Anti-Union Law Amid Looming Strike Wave

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26.07.2022

The spring and summer of 2022 have been seasons of discontent in the United Kingdom. Not only was Prime Minister Boris Johnson toppled after a cascade of all-too-public scandals eroded confidence in his government, but the economy has also been hit by a slew of major industrial actions.

A series of rolling strikes have brought the country’s rail network and London’s underground rail system to a standstill on several days over the past months, with the prospect of more strikes through August. Ten thousand underground system workers struck over efforts by Transport for London, the body that oversees the city’s transport, to cut more than 500 jobs and to “review” the pensions package negotiated by the unions. Railway workers are striking over pay: The union claims railway companies froze pay several years ago, and in the current round of negotiations they are proposing small increases that don’t even begin to match the near-10 percent inflation the U.K. economy is currently experiencing. They are also striking over efforts by owners to cut the number of maintenance crews on the lines.

Strikes aren’t limited to the transit sector. Pay increases in most industries are failing to come close to cost of living increases: The Office of National Statistics reports that this year real wages have declined by 2.8 percent, the largest such decline since records on this began being kept 21 years ago. As a result, unions have gotten more assertive. Moreover, while the public’s support for striking workers is uneven, sympathies have shifted towards the unions in recent months, and large numbers of Brits polled do support strike actions — if not across the board, then by workers in particular industries, such as firefighters, nurses and doctors.

The National Health Service, Britain’s beleaguered publicly funded health care system, is facing the threat of strikes, but not only by nurses. Doctors are dismayed by a new contract that would force them to offer primary care appointments to patients on evenings and weekends, presumably as a way to clear backlogs in access to care built up during the pandemic.

Firefighters are also threatening to walk off the job, as are teachers, civil servants, postal workers, telecommunications engineers and even some lawyers. Arguably not since the late 1970s have so many sectors of the U.K. economy........

© Truthout


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