an end to the year marked by an unprecedented social movement

It has been 40 years since Britain had known such a social movement: more than a million workers are preparing to strike between December 12 and 31 at the call of their various union federations, risking to paralyze part of the country during the holiday season . The railway workers, already mobilized since the summer, will disconnect for at least eight days: dozens of trains from London, but also in the Midlands and the north of England, will be cancelled, fourteen rail operators will be affected.

Some 115,000 employees of Royal Mail (the Post Office, privatized in the early 2010s), who have already accumulated twelve days of strikes since July, have left for a further ten days off work since 9 December. Baggage handlers will strike at Heathrow Airport in London, as will Eurostar security staff. From December 22, motorway staff will in turn go dancing in Greater London and the south of England, as well as customs officers, from December 24 at Heathrow and Gatwick, the other London airport.

Even more symbolically, in a country that worships its hospital system – the National Health Service (NHS) – public and free, but increasingly failing, paramedics are expected to stop work on December 21, and more than 100,000 nurses and aides from about fifty hospitals voted to strike on December 15 and 20, at the call of their union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), for the first time since the establishment of the latter, one hundred and six years ago. And that doesn’t count teachers or beginners, also “probably ready” to layoffs in early 2023, according to the British Medical Association.

Also read: In the UK, a historic strike by nurses whose real pay has fallen by 20% since 2010

At the heart of this social tumult are wage demands, while the increases proposed by employers in the public or para-public service do not exceed 5%, inflation reached 11.1% over a year in October and that average wages have stagnated for a decade, a consequence of the era of austerity initiated in 2010 by Cameron’s government.

The right to strike seriously hampered

According to figures from the British Trade Union Confederation (TUC), employees lost an average of £20,000 in real terms between 2008 and 2021. Faced with energy prices that have doubled and food prices that have risen by 16% in a years it will be difficult to live decently on these wages – especially in London, where rent is prohibitive.

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