Walkout Wednesday: Britain hit by biggest strike in decades

United Kingdom AFP - ADRIAN DENNIS
FEB 1, 2023 LISTEN

Up to half a million British teachers, civil servants, train drivers and university lecturers walked off the job on Wednesday as the UK was hit by a coordinated strikes on a level not seen since the 1980s.

As many as 23,000 schools were shut and trains were severely disrupted as the so-called Walkout Wednesday strikers demanded better pay and conditions in the face of rising inflation and living costs.

Also on strike were 100,000 civil servants from more than 120 government departments, and tens of thousands of university lecturers.

Described by the British media as a "mini-lockdown", the walkout is expected to cost the economy 200 million pounds.

'No choice'

National Education Union boss Mary Bousted told Reuters that teachers felt they had no choice but to strike as declining pay meant high numbers were leaving the profession.

"There has been over the last 12 years a really catastrophic long term decline in their pay," Bousted said outside a school in south London.

"None of the people behind me want to be on strike today but they are saying, very reluctantly, that enough is enough and that things have to change."

Britain has seen a wave of strikes across different sectors, including health and transport workers and postal staff, with inflation running at more than 10 percent – the highest level in four decades.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told Times Radio she was disappointed by the strike, which was unnecessary given that discussions with unions were ongoing.

Rallies were planned for later in the day to protest against a new law to curb strikes in some sectors. 

(with wires)