Nearly half a million workers in Britain, from different sectors of the economy, participated in strikes and protest actions, in the month of March 2023, peaking around March 15, the day of the presentation of the government’s Spring Budget.
On March 15, at least 40,000 workers marched through central London. Different contingents of the striking workers converged in a massive protest rally at Trafalgar Square.
Nearly 100,000 teachers struck work on March 15 and 16, under the banner of the National Education Union (NEU). They demanded pay increase, in view of the rising inflation and the fact that their real income has fallen by 23% since 2010. The teachers also demanded more recruitment of teachers, reduction of workload, urgent repair and upgradation of schools, job security and support for special educational needs. Teachers in Britain have been waging a persistent struggle for several years now, for a modern education system supported by adequate funds from the state, in order to ensure a better future for the children and youth.
The British government has imposed the pre-condition that the strike should be withdrawn before any negotiations can be held with the teachers on raise of pay and funding. The striking teachers have severely denounced this attitude of the government.
Nearly 70,000 workers at 150 universities across Britain have been on strike for 18 days now. These include university teachers, librarians and other staff. They have pointed out that university staff do an average of two days’ additional unpaid work per week, while one-third of the academic staff are forced to work on temporary contracts. They are demanding an adequate pay raise to deal with the increasing inflation, as well as an end to insecure job contracts and extremely heavy workload. They are asking the government to revoke the cuts in pension it had imposed last year and restore all pension benefits. These pension cuts, they pointed out, have meant a loss of 35% in the guaranteed pension income of the retired university staff. The teachers and other workers in higher education contribute to research that yields scientific and technological advances and produce the future skilled scientists and engineers, they have pointed out, emphasising their demands.
Nearly 50,000 Junior Doctors held an unprecedented 72-hour strike from March 13-15. These Junior Doctors make up 45% of the medical workforce and include recent graduates up to those with 10 years of experience. They are demanding a 35% pay increase, security of tenure and a reduction in workload. The British Medical Association (BMA) has put forward the demands of the Junior Doctors to the government, but the government is unwilling to negotiate with the striking doctors.
Transport workers and drivers of the London Underground went on strike on March 15,16 and 18, against retrenchment of workers, cutback in pension and worsening working conditions. Railway workers of 14 train companies across Britain went on strike at the same time, demanding pay rise and opposing the reduction of services such as closure of ticket offices, which are resulting in thousands of job losses.
Around 133,000 government workers struck work on March 15, demanding pay increase. There were striking workers from 124 government departments and services, including the Cabinet Office, the Department for Education, the Home Office, the Department for Transport, the Department for Work and Pensions, National Highways, the UK Health Security Agency, the Revenue and Customs department, the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency, the Border Force and air and sea ports.
Media workers held a 24-hour strike at various BBC Local studios and offices on March 15-16. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which led the strike, is opposing the British government’s plans to cut back on funds and close down radio channels that address concerns of the diverse peoples inhabiting Britain. The media workers are opposed to the BBC’s much-publicised Digital First strategy, which they fear will lead to shutting down news that concerns the working people. They are opposing the pressure on journalists to propagate only those news and views which are approved by the government and not highlight the genuine concerns of the people.
Amazon workers in Coventry went on a week-long strike in mid-March, demanding higher remuneration and better working conditions.