Strikes are set to close schools and universities, cripple transport networks and disrupt public sector services today as unions stage one of the biggest days of co-ordinated action for a decade.
At least 23,000 schools are expected to be affected as teachers walk out over pay, joined by university lecturers, train and bus drivers and civil servants including staff at driving test centres, museums, ports and airports.
As well as pickets across the country there will also be ‘right to strike’ protests over a new government bill demanding minimum service levels in crucial sectors during industrial action. And there were warnings yesterday of more strife in the weeks ahead, including further walkouts by NHS ambulance workers and firefighters’ first strike in 20 years.
A Trades Union Congress report published today says the average public sector worker is now £203 per month worse off than in 2010.
The union body expects up to 500,000 workers to stop work today, making it the biggest day of industrial action since November 30, 2011, when more than two million workers and over 30 trade unions walked out over public sector pensions.
Today’s teachers’ strikes are the first in a wave of walkouts across England and Wales by the National Education Union this and next month.
The NEU says pay for experienced teachers has ‘fallen by one-fifth in real terms since 2010’ and has hit out at the government’s pay offer of five per cent.
Aslef union train drivers and RMT union workers at 14 rail operators will also stop work today and on Friday.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman said ‘we think negotiations rather than picket lines are the right approach’.
TUC general secretary Paul Nowak replied that the government needs to ‘stop attacking the right to strike and start negotiating with unions in good faith on public sector pay’.
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