The Queen’s Burial Followed by Mass Strike Action in the UK
As soon as Queen Elizabeth’s coffin was lowered into the Royal Vault, a major strike wave began throughout the United Kingdom that will eventually involve more than 170,000 unionists. On the evening of Sept. 19, the Liverpool dockworkers launched a two week strike action, shutting down one of the UK’s largest ports, which handles over half a million containers a year. One week later, on Sept. 27, the dockworkers at the Felixstowe port will start a half-work strike action, following rejection of the wage deal offered by the port operator. This is the UK’s largest port, where some 4 million containers annually account for half of all container shipping in the country. It is also one of the few ports capable of handling the super container ships. An earlier 8 day strike has already seriously impacted supply chains.
Workers at both ports are members of the UNITE union, whose general secretary, Sharon Graham, is quoted by the Guardian as having said: “Workers across the country are sick to death of being told to take a hit on their wages and living standards while employer after employer is guilty of rampant profiteering.” She said the port’s owners needed to table a “reasonable offer and fulfil its previous pay promises”.
On Oct. 1, the dockers will be joined by 115,000 Royal Mail workers, as well as 40,000 railway workers represented by the Rail Maritime Transport Union, and train drivers in the ASLEF union, who will carry out a strike action until Oct. 5.
A major demand of the unions is for pay increases to at least compensate for the inflation rate, which reached 9.8% for the year in August, i.e. even higher than the EU average. In August alone, grocery costs were up 12.4% compared to August 2021.
All sectors of the population have been hit. Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will launch a series of actions for a total of ten days beginning Sept. 26 at 26 education colleges. On Oct. 6, the National Health Service nurses with the Royal College of Nursing will carry out their strike that was postponed because of the Queens death.
All this coincides with both the Labour Party Conference, which begins on Sept. 24, where the Labour Party affiliated trade union federation (Trades Union Congress) will be represented. Then, at the height of the strike actions, the Conservative Party will hold its conference Oct. 2-5.
The arrogance with which government of Prime Minister Liz Truss intends to treat the unions and protesting working people was indicated earlier this month by Chancellor of the Treasury, Kwasi Kwarteng. He announced that the government will lift the cap on bankers’ bonuses implemented during the financial crisis of the last decade.
Commenting on Kwarteng’s announcement, the Secretary of the Sheffield Trades Union Council Martin Mayer called it “a smack in the face to millions of workers who face extreme hardship this winter as record inflation is not matched by pay rises”, adding that Trade Union Councils throughout the country will be building public support for striking workers.