Thursday, 6 October, 2022
E-paper

In UK

Workers strike as inflation crushes earnings

Workers strike as inflation crushes earnings

LONDON: Railway and postal staff, dockers too. Britain's workers are striking in vast numbers as decades-high inflation erodes the value of wages at a record pace.

Britain's train network faces further heavy disruption Thursday and Saturday in major walkouts that follow the sector's biggest strike action for 30 years already this summer, reports AFP.

Tens of thousands of staff are expected to strike over the two days, leaving a skeleton train service that will hit holidaymakers and commuters, even if home-working continues for many office staff after Covid restrictions were lifted.

London's underground railway, the Tube, will be hit by a strike Saturday, ahead of an eight-day stoppage starting Sunday by dockers at Felixstowe, Britain's largest freight port that is situated in eastern England.

"We will continue to do whatever is necessary to defend jobs, pay and conditions during this cost-of-living crisis," Sharon Graham, head of major British union, Unite, said this week.

Official data Wednesday showed UK inflation at a 40-year-high above 10 percent, as soaring food and energy prices hurt millions of Britons.

And the situation is set to worsen under a new prime minister, as under-fire Boris Johnson prepares to step down.

The Bank of England has forecast inflation to top 13 percent this year, tipping the British economy into a deep and long-lasting recession.

"This record fall in real wages demonstrates the vital need for unions like Unite to defend the value of workers' pay," Graham said, while hitting out at suggestions, including from BoE governor Andrew Bailey, that pay rises were fuelling inflation.

"Wages are not driving inflation," she insisted ahead of the latest UK inflation data that showed rocketing food prices were the main factor behind July's spike.

Inflation has soared worldwide this year also on surging energy prices, fuelled by the invasion of Ukraine by major oil and gas producer Russia.

Some proposed strikes planned for the British summer have been halted after unions and companies agreed pay deals at the eleventh hour.

But while British Airways ground staff and plane refuellers at Heathrow airport have scrapped proposed walkouts, other sectors are holding firm.

More than 115,000 British postal workers employed by former state-run Royal Mail plan a four-day strike from the end of August.

Telecoms giant BT will face its first stoppage in 35 years and walkouts have recently taken place or are soon to occur by Amazon warehouse staff, criminal lawyers and refuse collectors.