Days lost to strikes in UK highest since 2011


London, Dec 14

A total of 417,000 working days were lost because of labour strikes in the UK in October, the highest number since November 2011, official statistics revealed.

This winter's widespread strikes are expected to increase this figure further, reports Xinhua news agency.

Some of the strikes were suspended in September for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, but the number of working days lost rose again in October, Sam Beckett, head of economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said on Tuesday.

The largest wave of labour actions in a decade came off the back of persistently low real wage growth for public sector workers coupled with high inflation, Nye Cominetti, senior economist at the think tank Resolution Foundation, said.

Average regular pay growth was 6.9 per cent for the private sector and 2.7 per cent for the public sector between August and October, which "is among the largest differences between the private sector and public sector growth rates we have seen", the ONS said on Tuesday.

When adjusted for inflation over the year, total and regular pay among employees both fell by 2.7 per cent, which remained among the largest falls in growth since comparable records began in 2001, the ONS added.

Further strikes are scheduled for December, to be staged by more than 40,000 railway workers from the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), ground handlers at the country's biggest airport Heathrow, Border Force workers at major airports, and postal workers, nurses, ambulance workers, among others.

More than one million working days will be lost to industrial action across a range of sectors in December, making it the worst disruption in any month since July 1989, analysts said.

Following prolonged disputes over pay and working conditions, companies and the UK government still lock horns with the country's unions.

"We are now on the brink of a damaging recession with the threat of one million lost jobs," Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said on Tuesday.

O'Grady urged Ministers to "act now to put money in people's pockets -- starting with boosting the minimum wage and giving our public sector workers a pay rise to match the cost of living".

RMT members from Network Rail, the owner of most of the railway network in the UK, have voted to reject the latest offer from the company, the union announced, noting that strike action this month remains on.

But the government said that the pay rises are unaffordable and higher pay will not help fight inflation.

"Any action that risks embedding high prices into our economy will only prolong the pain for everyone, and stunt any prospect of long-term economic growth," Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said.


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