Industrial Action in the UK (Business Cafe)

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The recent announcement, that industrial action by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) appears inevitable in the coming months, combined with a planned autumn term strike by members of two teaching unions and a claim from the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that strike action by postal workers is unavoidable, may make you think that industrial action in the UK is on the increase.

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Industrial Action in the UK (Business Cafe)

  1. 1. Is Industrial Action in the UK on the Rise? The recent announcement, that industrial action by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) appears inevitable in the coming months, combined with a planned autumn term strike by members of two teaching unions and a claim from the general secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) that strike action by postal workers is unavoidable, may make you think that industrial action in the UK is on the increase. Looking at figure 1, however, illustrates that the number of working days lost due to industrial action has in fact significantly decreased since the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Figure 1 Source: ONS data, Labour Disputes September 2013. Unrest amongst workers was commonplace during this period and was exacerbated by The Winter of Discontent in 1979 and the year-long National Miners Strike of 1984. A recent resurgence? In 2011, the number of working days lost peaked at 1.4 million, its highest level since the 1980’s. The Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher introduced considerable amounts of Trade Union legislation during the 1980’s which severely limited their ability to take industrial action. © Copyright 2013 Tutor2u Limited tutor2u
  2. 2. Is Industrial Action in the UK on the Rise? continued On closer inspection, the reason for the industrial disputes has changed during recent times. During 2009 and 2010, the main cause of industrial disputes was redundancies. However, during 2011 and 2012, the main cause had reverted back to wage disputes. There is clearly a link here to the recession, with workers concerned about their job security. The current situation The FBU have called a 4 hour strike on 25th September in a row with the government over the terms of their pensions. Two teaching unions, the NASUWT and NUT, are planning to strike in October over pay, pensions and their working conditions. The CWU are expected to strike over the government’s plans to privatise the Royal Mail. Unrest amongst many public sector workers is clearly quite strong, whether the government will take action to try and avert this planned action is yet to be seen. Maybe the prospect of a general election in 2015 will start to affect their decision making regarding the unions... maybe not! Figure 2 Source: ONS; Labour Disputes Annual Article, July 2013. Figure 3 Source: ONS; Labour Disputes Annual Article, July 2013. © Copyright 2013 Tutor2u Limited tutor2u

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