United Kingdom prepares for the “summer of discontent”
Boris Johnson’s government continues to accumulate problems. Last week, the biggest rail strike in 30 years brought London to a standstill. Railway, Underground and postal workers took to the streets to demand better working conditions and higher wages.
According to the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union (RTM), workers at Network Rail and 13 of the 15 UK rail companies believe that the rises proposed by the companies are not enough and need to be higher due to the rising cost of living across Europe. In addition, the union claims that Transport for London, the government body that manages transport in the British capital, wants to cut jobs and slash pensions.
Criminal lawyers have also joined the protests shaking the country. Since June 27, this sector has announced that it will demonstrate one day a week until July 18, when they have called a five-day strike. The Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, those who assist detainees in the public defender’s office, claims that the profession is facing an “existential crisis” because of the inadequate funding they receive.
Last week’s protests have been joined by the current ones. Members of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (Aslef) who work on London’s streetcar network have been called out on strike since Tuesday. The body claims that “with RPI inflation above 11% the company has offered streetcar drivers a rise of just 3%” and that this will mean “a real terms pay cut for people already struggling to cope with rising fuel, energy and food bills.” The stoppage affected the second day of Wimbledon with disrupted circulations between Croydon and Beckenham Junction, Elmers End or New Addington.
For their part, the workers of the Post Office, one of the private postal services, have marked July 11 as the day to protest against low wages. Likewise, 115,000 workers of the Royal Mail, the UK’s postal service and members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU), are awaiting the resolution of the ballot that will announce whether or not they will strike. The result is expected to be known on July 11. Among their protests, they claim that the company has offered them a 2% increase while the Royal Mail denies this and claims it was 5.5%.
The National Health Service (NHS) in England could also be involved in the coming weeks in new stoppages. Although no strike action has yet been confirmed, the British Medical Association, the doctors’ union, is calling for a 30% pay rise over five years to keep pace with inflation. For the same reason, teachers’ strikes are being considered for next autumn.
Boris Johnson’s government has responded by condemning the “union barons” and trying to make it easier for companies to hire agency workers rather than engage with workers under the toughest economic conditions in decades.