NHS workers on the picket line during the national strike on 13 October 2014.
Strike figures show there’s no justification for the Trade Union Bill
The official statistics on work days lost to strike action in the UK are out today, and they show an increase in the number of strikes. In all, 788,000 days of industrial action took place in 2014. That’s up from 444,000 in 2013, and from 249,000 in 2012.
But before you start stockpiling your Daily Mail readers’ offer candles, ready for another winter of discontent, it’s worth looking at the wider picture.
We’re currently going through a historic low in levels of strike action. Prior to 1990, we’d never had a year with as few strikes as 2014, since records began in 1891. In 1979, more than 29 million days were lost to strikes. The peak in 1926 was 162 million.
Look at this graph. It’s a very quick way to sober up any strike hysteria.
People are simply not going on strike at the drop of a hat, no matter what the Government would like us to believe. Choosing to strike is a big decision that’s taken as an absolute last resort when something is so wrong there’s no other way. Workers worry they might jeopardise the work they do, or the service they came into that job to provide. You lose pay too, and given years of falling real wages mean that living standards remain well below where they were before the crash, that kind of risk is something people are going to think twice about before crossing a ballot paper.
So all in all, it has to be a pretty big deal for someone to consider walking out. May I humbly suggest to our colleagues in the media, that the reason you’re noticing the inconvenience of strikes so much is because they’re so unusual at the moment!
And looking at the latest stats, 56% of these strikes were in the private sector. This makes the rhetoric and additionally harsh restrictions for ballots in essential public services all the more irrational.
There’s no way that current low levels of industrial action can be used to justify the clampdown on people’s democratic rights that’s contained in the Government’s Trade Union Bill.
It’s an unfair and unnecessary attack on trade unions (with an partisan dig in the ribs for the Labour party), aimed at rebalancing the power away from working people within our already skewed economy, and paving the way for the government to lead the charge of bad employers by cutting staff, pay and service quality in our public services.
They aren’t fooling anyone.
— Stronger Unions (@strongerunions) July 16, 2015