On the 1st of February 2023, the UK came the closest it has come in a generation to a general strike as workers from across a wide range of sectors including education and transport walked out in protest regarding poor pay, unfair working conditions, pensions and precarity. The day of strike represents the culmination of many months of industrial action across the UK, including unprecedented strikes by nurses and ambulance workers. They are a response both to the current cost of living crisis, which is pushing many workers to the brink of poverty, and to the long-term reality of declining pay and worsening public services. Many sectors, such as teaching and health, have seen declines in real pay in the order of 10-15% since 2010. This combined with the effects of more than a decade of austerity to create a situation in which key public services, from ambulances to A&E, from rail transport to schools, are in a state of constant disfunction and crisis.
On the streets, the sense of solidarity up and down the country was palpable as rallies took place in major cities and workers came together to say no to the continued erosion of working conditions which affects a growing proportion of UK workers, including many of the key workers who only two years ago were being celebrated as heroes during the pandemic.
As cars beeped their horns in solidarity and streets came to a standstill, it became clear that this is no longer just a case of individual fights, but a movement across the country. It is no longer simply a case of rail workers, university lecturers or health professionals fighting for their own rights. People across the country have had enough and are coming together to say so. The chants of ‘workers united will never be defeated’ rang out above the sound of traffic, with people stopping in the street to clap those passing by on marches and rallies.
This is a stark reminder to the British Government that there is power in the people; that real time pay offers far below inflation and the expectations that people will continue to work ridiculous hours with very little recognition, along with the erosion of safety measures and public services, will not be tolerated. Government representatives continue to push back against the demands for recognition and fairness, but if today is anything to go by, the fight may be long but workers will not be divided.