The UK is set for another bumper period of industrial action as workers in multiple sectors are set to walkout from 1 February. Strikes have become common in the past year, with high-profile industrial action taking place for railway workers, nurses and ambulance strikes.
MPs have voted to accept a minimum service level for some of those striking in essential sectors. In response to this move the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has organised a national Day of Action for 1 February.
The union says that the day will be marked to “protect the right to strike”. In tandem with the Day of Action, trade unions involved in disputes across the country have chosen to take their strike action, with the UK facing one of the biggest strike days in recent memory as a result.
On 1 February alone, action will include at least 100,000 civil servants and a further 300,000 teachers.
What is the TUC’s Day of Action?
The Day of Action was announced by the TUC in response to the proposed legislation which will require a minimum level of service from workers in essential services. This means that some workers will not be able to take part in industrial action, and could face being fired if they refuse.
The new powers were approved by 315 votes to 246 in the House of Commons on 31 January, 24 hours before the demonstration day. The bill is still to be scrutinised by the House of Lords before becoming set in law.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak said: “The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty – but the government is attacking it in broad daylight. These draconian new curbs will tilt the balance of power even more in favour of bad bosses and make it harder for people to win better pay and conditions.
“Nobody should lose their job if they take lawful action to win a better deal. But ministers have gone from clapping our key workers to threatening them with the sack.”
The TUC will be demonstrating and holding protests throughout the UK in opposition to the bill. It will coincide with multiple sectors out on the picket lines.
Which sectors are striking on Wednesday 1 February?
Wednesday 1 February will see one of the biggest days of combined industrial action take place in the UK in more than a decade. An estimated 500,000 workers across several different industries will join the picket line, according to the TUC.
Railway workers will continue their industrial action on Wednesday 1 February. RMT and Aslef union representatives have remained locked in a bitter pay dispute with Rail Delivery Group bosses.
The strike will affect a number of services in the UK. Train companies which have confirmed that no service will run on 1 February include:
- Avanti West Coast
- Chiltern Railways
- East Midlands Railway
- Gatwick Express
- Great Northern
- Heathrow Express
- Island Line
- London Northwestern Railway
- TransPennine Express
- West Midlands Railway
Reduced service will be run on Greater Anglia & Stansted Express, Great Western Railway and LNER.
The highly-publicised dispute between rail bosses and union representatives centres mainly around a pay offer. Most recently, Aslef rejected a pay offer which would be worth an 8% increase over two years.
General secretary Mick Whelan said that there was “zero chance” that members would accept a pay offer below inflation and with provisions. However, he said that the union is still “willing to engage in further conditions with the train operating companies”.
Teachers across England and Wales will stage a national strike on 1 February. This means that 23,400 schools in both regions will be closed or timetables heavily disrupted as the National Education Union (NEU) remains in negotiation with the government over a pay offer.
Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: "This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27% over the same period. The average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, that is an unsustainable situation.”
Around 300,000 teachers and members of support staff are expected to take part in the action.
A rolling strike held by EIS members in Scotland is continuing also. Two council areas per day are affected each day action is held - on Wednesday 1 February schools in Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen will be affected.
Workers in the several civil service groups will be out on strike during the TUC’s day of action. This includes workers in the Border Force, Rural Payments Agency (RPA), Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), National Highways and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
The Public and Commercial Services Union confirmed that around 100,000 workers across 124 government departments and other bodies will take part in the strike. The union has asked the government for a 10% pay rise and has been met with resistance.
Speaking upon the announcement of the PCS’s strike, general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “During the last month, when thousands of PCS members across a range of departments took sustained industrial action, the Government said it had no money.
“But it managed to find millions of pounds to spend on managers and military personnel in a failed attempt to cover the vital work our members do. We warned the Government our dispute would escalate if they did not listen – and we’re as good as our word.”
Which sectors are striking on Friday 3 February?
While the TUC’s day of action will conclude on Wednesday 1 February, strike action will continue throughout the week. Train drivers will once again be on strike on 3 February.
Joining this group of workers including teachers in Scotland will continue their rolling strike. EIS members in South Lanarkshire and the Western Isles will take action on 3 February.
Further strikes action is expected throughout February and into the spring. A large-scale NHS strike, which will include nurses and ambulance staff, is due to begin on 6 February.