Hundreds of thousands of hours lost to strikes, as more action looms
The Office for National Statistics said labour disputes ate up around 417,000 working days during the month, the highest since November 2011.
Data are yet to be compiled for November and December - when strikes were even more widespread - but yesterday’s ONS figures are an early indication of the scale of economic damage industrial action is having.
Postal workers and railway staff were among those that walked out during the month, as well as bus drivers in London, some refuse workers and staff at some colleges.
It comes as new strikes were announced by the Universities and College Union, with 18 days announced over February and March in disputes over pay, conditions and pensions. Exact dates are expected next week.
The union will also re-ballot staff at all 150 universities to renew its mandate and allow industrial action to be called well into 2023, including a marking and assessment boycott from April, unless the disputes are settled.
Meanwhile a strike by 100,000 civil servants is also to go ahead next month after talks with the Government aimed at resolving a bitter dispute over pay, jobs and conditions were dubbed a “total farce”.
During a visit to Belfast yesterday, Sir Keir Starmer was asked if civil servants working on the parliamentary estate went on strike whether he would cross the picket line to go to work.
The Labour leader did not give a direct answer to the question, but said: “I have made it very clear, I don’t want to see this industrial action.
“I want to lead a Government that resolves these issues. Under the last Labour Government, you didn’t have a national strike for nurses.
“You had fair pay for nurses and we think we should be in the room negotiating, sorting out these problems.”
Rishi Sunak yesterday said he hopes to “find a way through” the deadlock with unions to avert further industrial action.
The Prime Minister also said the Government is prioritising “strong dialogue” with union leaders as they aim to resolve bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
During a trip to Scotland, Mr Sunak was asked to address criticism that the Government is too slow in negotiating with unions when labour disputes are having a detrimental effect on the economy.
He told broadcasters: “Look, I think with strikes it’s important that we remain in strong dialogue with the unions, that’s why the Government invited all union leaders in to have those discussions.
“The discussions are ongoing and hopefully we can find a way through.”
The Prime Minister also touted the Government’s controversial new laws that would impose a legal duty of minimum service levels – legislation described by the TUC yesterday as ‘spiteful’.