NHS workers on the picket line during the national strike on 13 October 2014.
Strikes at historic low level
The ONS has today published a new report on industrial disputes. This confirms that they are at a historically low level. Ironically this comes one day after the government published plans to legislate to squeeze strikes.
In fact, in the current decade less than a tenth as many days are being lost to stoppages as were in the 1980s. Indeed, the figures are now so low that they only amount about a third of the number of days lost to strikes during world War Two!
Average number of working days lost per year through strikes
The new ONS figures also reports the following facts:
- the total effect of strikes varies from year to year. One big dispute can cause a spike in the statistics
- but there were just 151 stoppages in 2014 (compared to 1,206 in 1984, for example)
- most disputes were settled without strikes – there were more than 4 times as many strike ballots (650) than actual stoppages.
- 56 per cent of strikes were in the private sector, although the public sector stoppages tended to have larger numbers of people taking part in them.
- they were widely spread between industries, with 12 in construction, 4 in manufacturing, 9 in the arts and so on.
- most are very small – in more than half of stoppages (56 per cent) a grand total of less than 250 working days was lost
- and nearly two-thirds of strikes (63.9 per cent) last only one or two days
With the level of UK industrial disputes at just over half the EU average (56 per cent – see ETUI, “Strikes in Europe”, 2015), strikes cannot be considered a significant problem.
We should therefore question why the government wants to waste time legislating on this with the Trade Union Bill when there are many more pressing priorities – like improving skills and productivity at work, and addressing the crises in then NHS, housing and social care.
Indeed, 11.3 million days per year are lost through stress and depression – 20 times as many as though strikes – perhaps the government should turn their attention to this worrying fact rather than wasting time trying to squeeze strikes.