Sunday, June 12, 2005

Strike days doubled in 2004

The Financial Times reported on June 9, 2005 that: 'Working days lost through strikes almost double'
Here's the story by Andrew Taylor (via Lexis-Nexis) - but note that the figures are skewed by a small number of public sector strikes that took up 90% of these recorded strike days.

"The number of working days lost through strikes almost doubled last year as public sector workers staged a series of stoppages over government plans to axe jobs and introduce controversial pay arrangements.

Total days lost rose from 499,100 in 2003 to 904,900 last year, according to figures published today by the Office for National Statistics.

This was still well below the levels prevailing in the 1970s when an average of 12.9m days were lost annually and in the 1980s when 7.2m days a year were lost. However, last year's figure was well above levels prevailing in the 1990s when an average of just 660,000 days a year were lost through strikes. The biggest single stoppage last year took place in November when 200,000 civil servants, including Jobcentre employees, tax officers and museum attendants, stopped work for 24 hours over plans to lose 70,000 jobs and relocate large numbers of staff, to achieve efficiency savings of Pounds 21.5bn.

The Public and Commercial Services Union, which organised that stoppage, yesterday threatened further strikes involving up to 5m public sector workers if the government went ahead with plans to raise retirement ages compulsorily. The PCS also organised a series of two-day stoppages last year involving 90,000 staff at the Department for Work and Pensions over a pay dispute. The union eventually won a three-year deal worth 15 per cent for the lowest-paid workers, it said.

According to the ONS, 19 stoppages by public administration workers accounted for 48 per cent of working days lost through industrial action last year. Another 42 per cent involved action by education staff. One of the biggest involved a series of one-day pay strikes by 45,000 members of the Association of University Teachers.

Manufacturing, by comparison, accounted for just 3 per cent of days lost, reflecting the decline in the sector.

Some 84 per cent of days lost were due to pay disputes; another 12 per cent involved action over redundancy plans.

According to the ONS, 47 per cent of stoppages - accounting for 16 per cent of days lost - lasted for one day, reflecting the trend in recent years of unions trying to minimise earnings losses during industrial action.

A total of 292,700 workers took part in stoppages compared with 150,600 in 2003. The number of workers taking industrial action was above average for the 1990s but still well below the average of 1m workers who annually took part in stoppages in the 1980s.

Days lost through strikes fell sharply during the past decade following legislation by the Conservative government that outlawed secondary industrial action and required compulsory ballots of union members. Privatisation of former state industries and the decline of their base in manufacturing has further weakened the traditional power of trade unions. Scotland and Northern Ireland were the regions with the highest number of working days lost compared with total employment."