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UK teachers and civil servants join biggest strikes in years on ‘Walkout Wednesday’

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  • Up to 500,000 people expected to join UK strikes
  • Government says steep pay rises will fuel inflation
  • Schools will close, most trains will not run
  • More strikes involving health workers planned for next week

LONDON, Feb 1 (Reuters) – Up to half a million British teachers, civil servants, train drivers and university professors walked off their pay and working conditions on Wednesday in the largest coordinated strike in Britain for a generation, causing widespread disruption.

Massive walkouts across the country have closed schools, halted most rail services and the military has been put on standby to help with border checks.
Around 300,000 teachers are expected to strike on Wednesday, the largest group involved, as part of a wider action of 500,000 people, the highest number in at least a decade.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, told Reuters teachers in her union felt they had no choice but to strike because falling wages meant large numbers of people were leaving school. profession, which made it more difficult for those who remained.
“There has been a really catastrophic long-term decline in their pay over the last 12 years,” she told a school in south London.
“None of the people behind me want to be on strike today but they are reluctantly saying enough is enough and things have to change.”

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With inflation over double digits – the highest level in four decades – Britain has seen a wave of strikes in recent months across a range of sectors, including health and transport workers, warehouse workers in ‘Amazon and Royal Mail postal staff.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Gillian Keegan stuck to the government’s position. He has taken a tough line with public sector workers, telling them that caving in to demands for big pay rises will only fuel inflation.
“What we can’t do is give anti-inflation pay rises to part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everyone. It’s not an economically sensible thing to do. do,” she told the BBC.
So far the economy has not been hit hard by industrial action, with the cost of strikes in the eight months to January estimated by consultancy Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) at around 1.7 billion pounds ($2.09 billion), or about 0.1% of expected GDP.
He estimated the impact of teachers’ strikes at around £20m a day.
But the strikes could have a political impact on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.
His Conservative Party trails the opposition Labor Party by around 25 percentage points in polls and surveys indicate the public thinks the government has mishandled the strikes.


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Also on strike Wednesday are 100,000 civil servants from more than 120 government departments, as well as tens of thousands of university professors and railway workers.

Rallies are also planned later in the day to protest against a new law aimed at curbing strikes in certain sectors.
Next week, nurses, ambulance staff, paramedics, emergency call handlers and other healthcare workers are expected to stage more walkouts, while firefighters this week also backed a nationwide strike.
The strikers are demanding higher-than-inflation pay rises to cover food and energy bills they say have left them stressed, feeling undervalued and struggling to make ends meet.
Outside Bishop Thomas Grant School in Streatham, south London, Natasha De Stefano-Honey, a teacher for 14 years, said it was the worst period of education she can remember.
“Maybe 10 years ago I would really recommend teaching as a career and now I’m one of those teachers who can’t recommend it,” she said.
“Although I love teaching, it’s so difficult, it’s so tiring. Not enough of us are doing all the work that needs to be done.”

($1 = 0.8130 pounds)

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Reporting by Michael Holden, Alistair Smout, William Schomberg and Natalie Thomas; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Raissa Kasolowsky

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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