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  • Aqeela Begum

Are strikes actually working?

Over the past couple of months, the UK has been bombarded with a series of continuous industrial action. Workers have had enough. Different sectors all over the UK have resorted to strikes, from the NHS, teachers, and to the RMT, all in hope for the same cause: an increase in wages, fairer treatment, and for a chance to survive this financially desperate winter. With inflation running at 11.1%, it is no wonder that workers are displeased with the lack of help and support from the Government. But are the strikes actually working or are they just another obstacle the public must overcome during these difficult times?

Royal Mail strikes before peak periods

We all know the grim reality; no matter what, this Christmas will be a challenging one. With inflation heading at a 40 year high, many families anticipate that the presents underneath the tree will be running thin. Parents are already struggling to cope, but strikes have made things even worse. Santa, who is already expected to face a hectic day at the office on Christmas Eve, will be hurriedly trying to scramble things together as the Royal Mail are set to strike on the 24th of December, the day before Christmas, following a sequence of strikes starting all throughout this busy month.

Royal Mail workers had also staged a 48 hour walk out around black friday weekend, causing even bigger disruptions across the country, as an ongoing dispute over pay has still not been resolved between the Communication Workers Union (CWU), who represent 115,000 Royal Mail workers, and Royal Mail. Royal Mail claims that it has made its “best and final offer” and that the CWU are “holding Christmas to a Ransom”.

Some may argue that the CWU are the root of this dispute, after rejecting the 7% pay offer, disrupting not only the people they are striking against, but also innocent people trying to make this troublesome period work. Yet the CWU argue that the Royal Mail are the ones to point the finger to, as they need to “wake up” and “realise” that “we won’t allow them to destroy the livelihoods of postal workers.” As these arguments continue, many across the UK are still suffering due to the strikes, but the CWU are people too, and deserve fair pay. But is it worth jeopardising the whole business during the busiest peaks? By doing so, the strikes are seen as more damaging and employers are more willing to make changes.

NHS stage the biggest strike in NHS history

The Royal College of Nursing has announced that the strikes will be held on the 15th and 20th of December, for what will be the biggest strike in NHS history. This comes as the Government disagreed with the demanded 19% increase in pay. NHS staff have been struggling ever since the covid pandemic hit, and the workload has not eased ever since. Despite the increase in working hours, the pay has not kept up. As mentioned in the October Toast Article, it was revealed in the research conducted by the London Economics commission by the RCN that an experienced nurse’s salary has fallen 20% in real terms since 2010, meaning that those who work 5 days a week are effectively working one day for free. The NHS will be striking at a difficult time, the winter ahead is expected to be a hard one due to the cost of living crisis. However, due to trade union laws, life-preserving care must be provided, therefore all nursing staff will most likely continue to work in intensive and emergency care.

Other Strikes over November and December:

Strikes in Teaching:

  • On the 24th of November, most schools across Scotland were closed, as members of the Educational Institute of Scotland staged a strike, for the first time in nearly 40 years, which closed nearly all primary and secondary schools on the day.

  • Staff (Members of the University and College Union) from 150 Universities had striked on the 24th and 25th of November, and will strike on the 30th of this month.

Strikes in Transport:

  • Train drivers at 11 companies had walked out during the weekends

  • Members of Rail unions, RMT, the TTSA and ASLEF are taking part in a sequence of strikes in the run up to Christmas.

  • Airline ground handlers had striked on the 18th of November until the 21st, around a week before the Qatar world cup

Are Strikes Effective?

Strikes can be very effective. It can cause a business to come to a halt, it can create financial tension within a company forcing them to listen. However, because of this, striking may worsen the issue, according to the BBC, Royal Mail have said that they have added £100m to the losses and cannot afford to give its workers a higher pay rise. We all have experienced the disruptions that strikes bring, from few Rail services running throughout this month, to parcels being delivered later than usual all in pursuit of higher wages. The public have been affected by these strikes, and 87,600 days a month in July were lost as a result of labour disputes according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Yet without action, change can never be made. Especially during the end of the year, where many services face their busiest periods, companies and the Government are under even more pressure by these strikes, as unions push and continue to push until they get what they want.

As so many families face financially hard and uncertain times, uncertain as to whether they can have both the heating on and feed their families at the same time, and with a government that people feel is going against their interests, these strikes need to work. Everyone deserves fair pay and good treatment and without a proper voice, trade unions are the only way for working people to get their voice heard by the government. Whilst nothing has come to fruition yet, strikes take time to work and have an effect on government policy. Time will tell how well these strikes will do, but they are effective in one thing. Letting everyone know what is going on with pay and working conditions. No one can escape this news and that in itself has already proved effective in getting the public’s attention.

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