Number of working days lost to strikes in 2007 is second highest in decade

UK industrial action during 2007 led to a loss of more than a million days, for only the second time in a decade, according to latest figures.

Strikes led by public sector workers over below-inflation pay increases including Revenue & Customs staff and prison officers meant a 37% increase from 2006 to 1.03 million days, according to the Financial Times. Strikes by postal workers and public transport staff means the latest figure is the highest since 2002 when 1.3 million days were lost following a flood of teacher strikes.

Prime minister Gordon Brown has angered health workers and police officers, with a decision to stagger a recommended 2.5% pay rise, reducing their value to 1.9% in the current financial year.

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: “Our hard-pressed nurses, teachers and firefighters do vital jobs, and only take industrial action as a last resort. However, for the last four years they have been given pay rises below the rate of inflation. It’s unreasonable to expect these hardworking public servants to accept cuts in wages and living standards, so they have had no choice but to fight their corner.

“Days lost to industrial action are far lower than days lost to sickness, suggesting workers may be making themselves ill with hard work,” Barber said.

The 2007 figure is well below the average of 12.9 million days lost during the 1970s and 7.2 million in the 1980s. As many as 29.47 million days were lost in 1979 during the “winter of discontent”.

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