UK strikes: number of working days lost to walkouts in 2022 highest since 1989

Just under 2.5 million working days were lost to strikes between June and December 2022

The number of working days lost to strike action from June to December totalled 2,471,000 -  the highest since 1989, official figures show.

There were a total of 4,129,000 days lost in 1989 due to strikes by rail workers and coal miners, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Workers across a range of public sectors, including postal staff, nurses and civil servants, have been taking industrial action in recent months in protest over pay and conditions as inflation has soared to record levels, leaving many struggling to cope amid the cost of living crisis.

The ONS said 843,000 working days were lost to industrial action in December last year, as Border Force, NHS staff and Royal Mail staff, among others, staged strikes in the run-up to Christmas.

It said this represents the heaviest impact from strike action during a month since November 2011, when 997,000 working days were hit.

In December 2022, London was largely affected with 116,300 working days lost to industrial action. Scotland lost 85,800 days, Wales lost 37,500 working days and Northern Ireland lost 23,900 working days.


With the summer and autumn strikes, 1.9 million working days were lost to walkouts - a high not seen since 1990.

Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS said: "Transport and communications remained the most heavily affected area, but this month there was also a large contribution from the health sector".

Last week the ONS released separate data which showed that the vast majority (97%) of working adults have not missed work as a result of the strikes, with just 3% saying they had.

The survey period covered 25 January to 5 February but the ONS cautioned that the majority of responses would have been received before the strikes on 1 February when up to 500,000 workers walked out in the biggest day of industrial action in more than a decade.


Further strike days are being scheduled with those in the Arts joining the wave of action as the cost of living crisis still grapples the UK.

The ONS said on Tuesday (14 February) that regular pay growth reached 6.7% over the three months to December. However, once consumer prices index (CPI) inflation is taken into account, regular pay fell by 3.6% in the three-month period, compared with the previous year.

It suggests that wage pressure is continuing to grow for employers who are meeting demands to raise pay as living costs soar. Nevertheless, wages continued to be outstripped by rising prices.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the rate of UK unemployment was 3.7% in the three months to December, the same rate that was recorded in the three months to November.

Responding to the figures, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves said: "Britain has huge potential - but 13 years of the Tories has left real wages down, families worse off, and our economy lagging behind on the global stage. The government needs to stop sitting back and following this path of managed decline.

"Labour will get people back into work, with our real plan for growth to create good, new jobs across every part of our country."

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said in response to the unchanged unemployment rate: “In tough times unemployment remaining close to record lows is an encouraging sign of resilience in our labour market.

“The best thing we can do to make people’s wages go further is stick to our plan to halve inflation this year.”