- Up to 500,000 people are expected to join the strike in the UK
- The government says that large wage increases will fuel inflation
- Schools are closed, most trains are not running
- Next week there will be more strikes involving medical workers
LONDON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Nearly half a million British teachers, civil servants and train drivers walked out on Wednesday in the biggest coordinated strike in a decade, with unions threatening more disruption as the government digs in. excessive payment requirements.
Mass walkouts across the country closed schools, halted most rail services and forced troops to wait to help with border checks on what unions called “walkout Wednesday.”
About 300,000 teachers are expected to strike, according to unions, the largest group to take part as part of a wider strike of 500,000, the highest since 2011, when public sector workers walked out en masse.
The PCS union, which represents nearly 100,000 striking civil servants from more than 120 government departments, has warned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government that further coordinated action is imperative.
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“If the government doesn’t do something about it, I think we’re going to have more and more days like today and more unions joining,” PCS general secretary Mark Servotka told Reuters.
“We need money now,” he added.
With inflation above 10% – the highest level in four decades – Britain has seen a wave of strikes in recent months across the public and private sectors, including health and transport workers, Amazon warehouse workers and Royal Mail postal workers.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said the government would not budge, saying giving in to the demand for a big pay rise would only fuel inflation.
“What we can’t do is give inflation-busting pay rises to one part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everyone. That’s not an economically sensible thing to do,” he told the BBC.
So far, the economy has not been significantly hit by industrial action, with the Center for Economics and Business Research putting the cost of strikes in the eight months to January at about 1.7 billion pounds ($2.09 billion), or about 0.1%. expected GDP.
It estimates the impact of teacher strikes at £20 million a day.
However, the strikes may have a political impact on Sunak’s government.
In polls and opinion polls, his Conservative Party trailed the opposition Labor Party by 25 percentage points, and the public believed the government had handled the strike poorly.
Dr Jonathan Novell said Britain was in a difficult position given its limited resources.
“It’s sad, the teachers… the kids want to do their exams, I think there’s a lot of pressure on everyone. It’s depressing,” he said near London Bridge.
The strikers are demanding above-inflation wage increases to cover rising food and energy costs, which have forced them to make ends meet.
Mary Busted, general secretary of the National Education Union, told Reuters that teachers in her union felt they had no choice but to strike because the pay cuts would force many to leave the profession and make it harder for those who remain.
“There has been a long-term catastrophic decline in their wages over the last 12 years,” he said outside the school in south London.
“They’re saying, very reluctantly, enough is enough and things have to change.”
Next week, nurses, paramedics, paramedics and other health workers will also walk out, and this week firefighters have backed a nationwide strike.
Demonstrations against the new law on curbing strikes were to be held in some industries on Wednesday evening.
Outside Bishop Thomas Grant School in Streatham, south London, Natasha De Stefano-Honey, a teacher for the past 14 years, said it was the worst time in education she could remember.
“Maybe 10 years ago I would have really recommended teaching as a career and now I’m one of those teachers who can’t recommend it,” she said.
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Reporting by Michael Holden, Alistair Smout, William Schomberg, Natalie Thomas, Will Russell, Yadarisa Shabong, Ben Makori, Gerhard May and Sarah Young; Edited by Jonathan Oatis, Raissa Kasolowski, and Christina Fincher
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