What strikes are due to hit Britain over the next few weeks?
The closing months of 2022 came to be defined by a wave of industrial action which spread across all sectors of the economy. Despite strong wage growth, the highest inflation rates in four decades have left British workers out-of-pocket — just as the country heads into recession. But which strikers were the best prepared to handle the blow to begin with?
For many months, every day has brought more news of strikes. October saw the most working days lost to walk-outs in over a decade – a forewarning of another “winter of discontent”.
Railway workers and nurses led the way over the holidays, but unions representing ambulance crews, Border Force agents, bus drivers, postal workers, and civil servants also staged industrial action.
There is more to come in January. Three of the UK’s biggest education unions close ballots this week – with the potential to force the most widespread shutdown of state schools in years.
On Monday, the British Medical Association (BMA) began balloting roughly 45,000 junior doctors for a 72-hour strike in March.
Teachers, railway workers and nurses are among those planning more strikes in January
So why are people striking? Better working conditions are sought by most, but the real issue at hand is pay.
Over the short term, this is plainly down to the cost-of-living crisis. Inflation hit 11.1 percent in October, the highest rate for 41 years. In real terms – adjusted for rising prices – British workers experienced a pay cut of 2.7 percent between August and October, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Although the speed at which living standards are falling has accelerated dramatically this year, this is only a reflection of the trend ongoing since the financial crisis. Between 2010 and 2018, median weekly earnings of UK employees fell by around three percent in real terms.
In 2022, the Trades Union Congress claims this translates to workers earning £75-a-month less than in 2008 when accounting for price rises.
READ MORE: NHS strikes will go ahead after crunch talks fall apart
Last year, across the entire workforce, the median salary came in at £33,000. The earnings of sectors currently on strike vary widely around this figure.
Excluding train drivers, ONS data show the median full-time annual salary for railway workers was £41,085 in 2022. Although pay varies per operator, train drivers themselves were found to earn £48,500 a year on average, according to employment agency Reed.
Average full-time pay for all staff across NHS England was found to be £35,374 in the 12-month period to the end of June.
According to the NHS Pay Review Body’s latest report, the figure for the “nurses and health visitors” category was £34,275 in March 2021. The Government has said that since the £1,400 pay rise this summer, that average should now be up to around £37,000.
Paramedics earned £46,643 on average during the year to March, according to the Nuffield Trust.
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About 2,600 ambulance workers across the UK are expected to strike this week after crunch talks fail
And, according to the BMJ, junior doctors in England having completed their two years’ foundation training earn £40,257 in basic pay a year. Their union has said this represents a 26.1 percent real-terms pay cut since 2008.
Border Force officer salaries range from £21,431 as a starter to £31,519 with experience – according to the Government’s National Careers Service – working out to an average of £26,475.
The typical Royal Mail postal worker salary is £25,000 per year according to employment site Glassdoor. Christmas returns reportedly hit an all-time high this year after strike action by the Communication Workers Union meant many gifts arrived too late to go under the tree.
According to the ONS, primary school teachers earned £38,219 a year before taxes in 2022, secondary school teachers made slightly more at £41,722, while those in higher education took home £47,300 on average.
Salaries for civil servants vary widely depending on the Whitehall department considered – ranging from £24,670 for HMRC to £51,500 for the Department for International Development according to the Institute for Government – although the average was found to be £39,150 last year.
ONS figures put the average bus and coach driver salary at £28,533 – considerably less than train drivers. Barristers and judges were found to take home £53,110 a year, while driving examiners accredited by the Department for Transport earn £26,180 on average.
An Express.co.uk poll conducted between December 9 and 14 found nurses and ambulance workers to have the most support of all those undertaking strike action over the Christmas period, with 14 and 13 percent backing respectively.
Just ten percent backed postal workers, followed by rail staff and bus drivers (nine percent), Border Force officers, baggage handlers and National Highways workers (eight percent), and driving examiners, Scottish teachers and university lecturers (seven percent).