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UK: Strike expands from doctors to include other workers

Deutsche Welle 3/15/2023 Deutsche Welle
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced a budget plan that has left workers uneasy © PETER NICHOLLS/REUTERS Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, introduced a budget plan that has left workers uneasy

Teachers, train drivers and civil servants joined the UK's doctors on the picket line. Hundreds of thousands of workers have walked off the job.Following the unveiling of the UK Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt's budget on Wednesday, teachers, London Tube drivers and civil servants in their hundreds of thousands joined striking doctors.

Inflation has hit workers across all sectors, including white collar workers. UK university employees and journalists at the BBC also joined in the multisector walkout.The ASLEF (Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen) and Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) trade unions in the capital London left the Underground system paralyzed. The 130,000 civil servants from various government departments along with the country's Border Force.

Near No. 10 Downing Street, workers chanted outside Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office, "What do we want?, 10 percent, when do we want it? Now!"

What are workers in the UK concerned about?

Labor unions representing public sector workers have been at loggerheads with the government seeking pay increases they say are needed to allow for inflation. The government, meanwhile, says that they are unaffordable and will further fuel inflation.

The world's sixth-largest economy has faced a turbulent few years amid the shocks government austerity, Brexit, COVID-19 and double-digit inflation amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

In addition to salaries not keeping up with inflation, workers mention conditions, job security and pensions as top among their concerns.

The British Medical Association said junior doctors had effectively taken a 26% pay cut since 2009.

Hunt, whose formal title is Chancellor of the Exchequer, became minister last year in the wake of former Prime Minister Liz Truss's mini-budget that proved politically disastrous and leaned heavily on unfunded plans for tax cuts. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, himself a former chancellor, then kept Hunt in the role.

Increasing industrial action across much of public sector

The General Secretary of the civil servants' PCS trade union, Mark Serwotka, said that it was scandalous that some government workers were themselves forced to accept government benefits because of their low salaries.

The cascade of ever-more-severe strikes had also reached a tipping point, he added.

"I believe that for the first time in years, opinion polls show there's a lot of support for strikes," Serwotka told AFP.

The two-day teachers' strike is expected to affect every school in the UK.

More and more public sector workers have been downing tools more frequently in recent months in the UK, nurses went on strike for what their unions said was the first time in history earlier in the labor dispute.

ar/msh (AFP, Reuters)

Copyright 2023 DW.COM, Deutsche Welle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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