WORKERS are increasingly fighting back against attacks by bosses and the government as new figures revealed yesterday that the number of days lost to strike action almost doubled last year.
The government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that 322,000 working days were lost in 2016 compared with 170,000 the previous year.
Much of the increase is attributed to resistance by junior doctors against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to tear up their contracts and impose draconian new working conditions on an already stretched workforce.
The dispute, which was limited to England, accounted for 129,000 lost working days — 40 per cent of the total.
Although resistance through strike action has increased, it is still at record lows following the Thatcher government’s imposition of legislation to limit strikes, and the defeat of the miners in their epic struggle against pit closures in 1984-5.
When Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 there were 13.5 million trade union members in Britain.
Today there are around six million. Last year north-east England and London had the most working days lost per 1,000 employees.
There were 101 separate stoppages last year and the number of working days lost per dispute doubled to almost 3,200 compared to the previous year.
Teaching assistants were among the strikers in northeast England who were defending their pay against a 25 per cent cut.
The figures come despite Tory attempts to limit workers’ right to strike including enacting legislation that requires 50 per cent of a workforce to vote in any ballot on strike action.
Workers in “key services” must also maintain a basic service during strike action, or face prosecution.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Going on strike is always a last resort when bosses refuse to negotiate or compromise. Strikes are far less common these days and tend to be short.
“With the average annual wage still worth £1,000 less than a decade ago, it is not surprising that many strikes are about fair pay.
“To keep strikes at historic lows, the next government needs to get wages rising, and we need new laws to improve workplace rights and give people more of a voice at work.”
Labour have promised to repeal the restrictive anti-trade union legislation and introduce new rights, including national collective bargaining on pay.