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Private sector strikes at highest level since 1996

Some 202,000 working days were lost through strikes between January and August, new figures show.

Industrial action in the UK’s private sector has hit its highest level for more than 20 years.

Some 202,000 working days were lost through strikes between January and August, new figures show.

This is already higher than the total recorded for the private sector for each full calendar year since 1996.

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The number of working days lost in the UK private sector through labour disputes (PA Graphics)

And with ongoing disputes affecting five of Britain’s train operating companies, the number for 2017 will almost certainly rise further.

The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

They show that 61,000 working days were lost in the private sector in August 2017 alone.

This is the highest figure for a single month since February 2004.

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Some 202,000 working days were lost through strikes between January and August (Peter Byrne/PA)

Around 1,000 members of the Unite union working as cabin crew at British Airways were on strike for the whole of August in their long-running dispute over pay.

Other employees taking strike action this year have included rail guards, car production workers and highly-skilled nuclear staff.

A dispute over the role of guards on Southern trains started 18 months ago and is now the longest in the history of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union.

It has since spread to four other train operating companies: Greater Anglia, Merseyrail, Northern and South Western Railway.

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Cabin crew at British Airways were on strike for the whole of August in their long-running dispute over pay (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Strikes have also hit German car maker BMW, the Atomic Weapons Establishment and Japanese electronics firm Fujitsu.

Historically, the total number of working days lost through any sort of industrial action in the UK – across both the private and public sectors – remains extremely low.

The ONS reports that a combined figure of 322,000 days were lost in 2016.

By contrast, 27 million were lost in 1984 – the first year of the 1984/85 miners’ strike – while 29 million were lost in 1979, thanks largely to the so-called winter of discontent involving widespread strikes by public sector trade unions.

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