Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal the UK lost 220,000 working days to strike action in January.
The data reflects the scale of action taken in sectors such as education, public transport and the NHS. However, it also represents a drop from the 822,000 days lost to strikes in December last year.
Darren Morgan, director of economic statistics at the ONS, said: ‘The number of working days lost to strikes fell in January from the very high level seen in December. Nevertheless, many days were still lost, with education the most affected sector.’
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained the same as last month, but the jobs market continued to shrink for the eighth period in a row. Current stats show that vacancies fell by 51,000 to 1.1 million between December and February.
With so many industries facing accelerated costs and uncertain trading conditions, the fall in job vacancies reflects a decreased willingness amongst business chiefs to invest in labour. Inflation – which currently stands at 10.1 percent – is also affecting working people’s purchasing power. Pay fell by 3.5 percent between November and February as salaries failed to keep pace with the cost of goods and services.
In response to the figures, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt said:
‘The jobs market remains strong, but inflation remains too high. To help people’s wages go further, we need to stick to our plan to halve inflation this year.
‘…at the budget, I will set out how we will go further to bear down on inflation, reduce debt and grow the economy, including by helping more people back into work.’
The Workers Union Says…
These figures confirm the British jobs market’s reputation for durability is well-deserved. But it is difficult to deny that the cost of living – so often at the root of strike action – remains the main issue facing workers today. While governments set the policy framework, businesses and public employers must act to ensure that workers can and do receive the help they need to keep their heads above water.