Mon, 06 Feb 2023

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Strikes have swept across the UK in the past months. In September, there were 205,000 working days lost to labor disputes in the country, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

LONDON, Nov. 25 (Xinhua) -- Recurring strikes by nurses, university staff and postal workers, among others, have caused chaos in the United Kingdom (UK) in November and the coming months are likely to bring further disputes over pay.

NURSES TO WALK OUT

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said on Friday its members are set to stage a national walkout, the first in the organization's 106-year history, in mid-December to demand more pay, and said that further days of strike action may also be announced later.

"Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve," RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said in a statement.

An analysis published by the London Economics consultancy in October found that the salaries of experienced nurses have declined by 20 percent in real terms over the last 10 years in most of the UK. The RCN is campaigning for a 5 percent pay rise that is 5 percent above the rate of inflation.

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The RCN is "demanding a massive pay rise of 17.6 percent--an increase around three times the average settlement that millions of hardworking people outside the public sector are getting," Health Secretary Steve Barclay tweeted on Friday.

"Inevitably strike action will have an impact on services," he added, noting that the government remains open to talks.

MORE STRIKES UNDERWAY

More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities across the UK began three days of strike action on Thursday over pay, working conditions and pensions. The University and College Union (UCU) said the strike is the biggest in the history of higher education and that over 2.5 million students could be impacted.

The union's demands include "a meaningful pay rise to deal with the cost-of-living crisis as well as action to end the use of insecure contracts and deal with dangerously high workloads."

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), Royal Mail's biggest labor union, went on strike on Thursday and Friday after it had failed to reach an agreement with the postal service and courier company. The walkouts coincided with the Black Friday sales.

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"Our members are striking for a pay rise that fully addresses the current cost of living," the CWU said. When Royal Mail workers walked out in late October, the union said the total number of days lost to industrial action in 2022 in CWU strikes had reached 1.25 million.

The National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) also announced on Tuesday a series of 48-hour strikes in December and January involving more than 40,000 members after the union and industry bosses failed to reach a settlement.

This latest round of labor action "will send a clear message that we want a good deal on job security, pay and conditions for our people," RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch said.

RISING COST OF LIVING

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Strikes have swept across the UK in the past months. In September, there were 205,000 working days lost to labor disputes in the country, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Pay disputes have intensified amid the rising cost of living. The UK's consumer price index (CPI) rose by 11.1 percent in the 12 months to October, up from 10.1 percent in September, hitting a fresh 41-year high. Rising energy and food costs have more bearing on the inflation rate experienced by low-income households.

After taking inflation into account, average total pay (including bonuses) fell by 2.6 percent and regular pay (excluding bonuses) fell by 2.7 percent between July and September, the ONS said. This was among the largest falls in growth since comparable records began in 2001.

"Pay growth continues to strengthen in the private sector. This has driven a huge wedge between private and public sector pay, which has been subject to very tight settlements," Louise Murphy, an economist at the think tank Resolution Foundation, said.

"This wedge is unsustainable in the long run as it creates huge difficulties for recruiting and retaining the public sector," she said.

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The walkouts have taken a huge economic toll and had a huge impact on day-to-day life. Economists have assessed that the first wave of rail strikes alone, in June 2022, cost the UK economy nearly 100 million British pounds (121 million U.S. dollars), according to a government report. (1 British pound = 1.21 U.S. dollar)

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