Social storm widens, new strikes paralyze Great Britain – World

New field day in the trenches of social protests shaking the United Kingdom in the name of a flurry of demands on the adjustment of wages to the cost of living after the years of austerity, of the contractual ceilings on increases, lastly of the repercussions of the pandemic and lockdown. The escalation was marked by the coordinated and simultaneous strike implemented today – in open defiance of the Tory government of Rishi Sunak, as well as corporate counterparts – by a vast spectrum of categories in the public sector: including, for the first time in this season of great discontent, teachers in 85% of over 23,000 private schools in England, Wales and 2 counties in Scotland. An agitation that also involved train drivers, bus drivers, university personnel, port or airport customs officers.

And it has mobilized all together about half a million workers, paralyzing to a large extent key sectors for the life of millions of people and families such as education or rail transport, amidst images of semi-deserted stations, closed schools, empty offices . The huge crowds that have risen in the last few days in Paris and in the rest of France against the tightening of pensions have not been seen in the streets; but participation in the pickets promoted on the island by the various trade unions was solid. Enough to force, for example, almost 90% of the schools involved to partially or totally close this morning. And the panorama seemed as close as possible to a general strike (which British legislation makes almost impossible in a framework of legality): an unprecedented framework “for at least 12 years” for the number of workers and categories involved in unison, according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC), control room of the trans-unionist movement across the Channel. Prime Minister Sunak, in the traditional Question Time on Wednesdays in the House of Commons, insisted on denying that he wants total confrontation, but also on invoking “reasonableness” against “unsustainable” requests for account keeping, under penalty of fueling the spiral of inflation that has just begun to slow from its recent peak of 10% and to cast a shadow over the recession.

While he did not hesitate to point the finger at the teachers (the last time on strike in 2016) recalling – in unison with the Minister of Education, Gillian Keegan – “the right of children and young people to be able to go to school”. However, the unions reply by attributing to the executive negotiation and ideological rigidities in the face of the collapse of the purchasing power of the salaries of many civil servants close to the gas pipe. Meanwhile, the battle does not stop. Next week the world of healthcare (not involved today) will return to the scene – in full turmoil amid record waiting lists, staff shortages aggravated by the post-Brexit, wages that have not been updated enough for some time, fatigue from the Covid emergency – with the third tranche since December of strikes by nurses of the national health service (NHS) scheduled for 6 and 7 February. Not without overlapping on the first day with yet another stop by the ambulance workers (which will be repeated on the 10th, except for changes) and with the first agitation of the midwives. While waiting for the date of the stop announced by the firefighters registered with the Fire Brigades Union (Fbu).

As well as the resumption – despite an offer revised upwards on wages just today – of the very tough dispute between the railway workers of the Rmt, the most bellicose and organized union in the current phase, the forerunner of the struggles of these months since the autumn behind the leadership of Mick Lynch: as iron-clad as imperturbable tribune who has become a symbol (in the media and in the squares) of a challenge brought not only to the Tory government or to companies, but also, as a goad, to a Labor absent from the barricades – when not hostile – under the neo-moderate guide by sir Keir Starmer. Challenge animated by the declared intention of using the picklock of the existential emergency on the cost of living to try to consolidate a new enlarged working class: capable, who knows, of returning to act as a counterweight “to the establishment system”.

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Social storm widens, new strikes paralyze Great Britain – World

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