Men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name. (William Morris - A Dream of John Ball)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Strike action has all but disappeared from the public sector

According to today’s release from the Office of National Statistics, 2017 saw the smallest number of workers, involved in the smallest number of strikes since records began in 1891.

Almost half of the 33,000 workers who took action, and two thirds of the 276,000 days lost to strike action, were in the transport sector (which means that were it not for the disputes on the railways these figures for strike action would be lower still).

Since the railways are privatised this also impacts upon the distinction between strike action in the public and private sectors. Whereas, for each year between 2000 and 2016, there were more working days lost in the public sector than in the private sector even though the private sector is much larger, In 2017, for the first time since 1999, there were more working days lost in the private sector (232,000) than in the public sector (44,000).

The number of working days lost in the private sector in 2017 (232,000) was the largest since 1996 and the number of working days lost in the public sector in 2017 (44,000) was the lowest figure on record.

Public sector strike action is currently almost absent, in spite of the fact that public service workers have suffered devastating decline in living standards since the economic crash – the lack of strike action is not because workers and their trade unions have found some other way to achieve satisfactory pay increases.

As the long standing inability of our trade unions to mount effective and sustained action to improve members’ living standards has contributed (alongside changes in the sectoral composition of the workforce) to a significant decline in the union wage premium, we will have to watch to see from official statistics, when they are published in the near future, if the decline in union membership is also continuing.

I wish luck to those in the trade unions struggling for change – and (again) would encourage all those who want to see improvements for working people in this country to focus immediate activity on building and campaigning for the Labour Party under socialist leadership.

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