Now, teachers, university staff, civil servants and train drivers have all said they will walk out on Wednesday February 1.
That is the same day the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has scheduled a national protest against the proposed laws.
“I don’t think we have a name for what this is yet,” trade unions historian Dr Edda Nicolson told The Big Issue.
“I would call it the most important coordinated action we have seen since the 1926 General Strike.”
The UK last saw a general strike in 1926, when the TUC – the federation of trade unions – called its members to strike in defence of 1.2 million miners who were being forced to work longer hours for less money.
Legislation brought in by Margaret Thatcher now prevents the TUC from calling a general strike, however, there is nothing to stop each union from coordinating their strike action to fall on the same day, given they have a legal mandate to strike.
Here’s why February 1 2023 is set to be one for the history books.
Who is going on strike on February 1?
Teachers in the National Education Union (NEU), the UK’s largest union representing teachers, will walk out on February 1, the first of seven days of strike action over the next two months.
Around 300,000 teachers in England and Wales, plus teaching support staff in Wales, could leave their classrooms, affecting more than 23,000 schools.
“This is not about a pay rise but correcting historic real-terms pay cuts. Teachers have lost 23 per cent in real-terms since 2010, and support staff 27 per cent over the same period,” said Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU.
“Teachers are leaving in droves, a third gone within five years of qualifying. This is a scandalous waste of talent and taxpayers’ money, yet the government seems unbothered about the conditions they are allowing schools and colleges to slide into,” they continued.
Around 100,000 civil servants in five more departments, including HMRC, will also walk out. Called by the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, it will be the largest civil service strike in years.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said that if the government “puts some money on the table there is a chance this dispute can be resolved”.
If not, it will see “public services from benefits to driving tests, from passports to driving licences, from ports to airports affected by industrial action on February 1.”
More than 70,000 staff at 150 universities will walk out, followed by a further 17 days of strike action in February and March.
UCU general secretary Jo Grady said her members will “walk out alongside fellow trade unions and hundreds of thousands of other workers to demand their fair share.”
“Whilst the cost of living crisis rages, university vice-chancellors are dragging their feet and refusing to use the vast wealth in the sector to address over a decade of falling pay, rampant casualisation and massive pension cuts,” she continued.
The train drivers union Aslef has called strikes on Wednesday February 1 and Friday 3 after it rejected a pay offer from rail companies. Roughly 12,500 train drivers are expected to strike, affecting 15 train companies.
The few hundred train drivers who are represented by the RMT will also refuse to work. The RMT said the date “coincides with a TUC day of action where several unions are coordinating their strikes during the cost of living crisis.”
Paul Nowak, general secretary of the TUC, has called the bill spiteful, unworkable, and “almost certainly illegal”, vowing to fight the plans through parliament and through the courts.
He said: “The right to strike is a fundamental British liberty – but the government is attacking it in broad daylight.
“These draconian new curbs will tilt the balance of power even more in favour of bad bosses and make it harder for people to win better pay and conditions.
“We will call on the general public to show support for workers taking action to defend their pay and conditions, to defend our public services and to protect the fundamental right to strike.”
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