In the United Kingdom, the wave of wage strikes hardens

On Thursday August 18, British trains were on strike and traffic was severely disrupted. The next day, the London Underground was stopped. Two days later, the trains were again blocked. On Sunday, it was the turn of the stevedores of the Port of Felixstowe, in the east of England, to launch an eight-day work stoppage. On Monday, August 22, anger also gripped the lawyers, who voted by a large majority to strengthen the strike movement they launched in April. In Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, after almost a week of work stoppages by garbage collectors, the rubbish is piling up.

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers In the UK, a “summer of unrest” brings people to the streets

Almost every day, the UK is faced with a new move of exasperation from employees. “Summer of Discontent”, as it has been nicknamed, started in June and tends to harden. It is now the biggest wave of strikes in thirty years, although for the moment it is far from the “winter of discontent” of 1979, which had immobilized everything.

That said, in a country that has hardly seen any social movements since the 1990s, there are no big demonstrations and no real coordination of actions. In front of the stations, a few dozen protesters sometimes gather, politely brandishing a handful of signs. On Monday at Felixstowe, the kingdom’s largest container port, fewer than a hundred people in pink or red fluorescent vests appeared on the parched lawn near their workplace.

inflation shock

The lack of custom in the face of strikes – in Felixstowe, it had not happened for thirty years – makes the generalized movement that seems to take over the country even more fruitful. “In the port, the employees are not really militant, emphasizes Robert Morton, representative of the Unite union for the transport sector. But they simply cannot allow their salaries to be devastated by inflation. »

Each strike has its specificities, but they all converge at one point: the shock of inflation, 10.1% in July on the other side of the Channel (or even 12.3% according to indicators), is violent. In one year, the average remuneration, including bonuses, had increased by 5.1% in the second quarter, which meant a decrease in purchasing power of 3%. You have to go back to the 2008 financial crisis to find such a steep drop. This is probably just the beginning: the Bank of England expects inflation to reach 13% in the coming months. As for the analysts at Citi, an American bank, they even expect 18% in January 2023.

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Vince Fernandez

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