26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: PS to join ‘summer of discontent’

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Strikes that have erupted across the United Kingdom’s railways and airlines is expected to spread to the Public Service, extending the ‘summer of discontent’ into the autumn and beyond.

Workers in schools, hospitals and the courts are threatening to walk off the job in the coming weeks in protest that their real wages, adjusted for inflation, are falling at the quickest pace on record.

The most active run of industrial action since the early 1970s is likely to compound the miserable period the UK is enduring following travel chaos and drought.

Anger building among Government workers is part of the bleak backdrop that will greet whoever takes over as Prime Minister when Boris Johnson steps aside.

It reflects decades of spending cuts across the Public Service that have left key public services struggling to cope and workers fed up and ready to pick a fight with Ministers.

Public sector employees, including teachers, nurses and Public Servants are weeks away from voting on whether to walk out from their positions.

Meanwhile, barristers in criminal courts have voted for an indefinite strike (pictured).

Government workers are falling further behind after decades of neglect.

Since the 1960s, investment in the public sector has been on a downward trend from a peak of eight per cent of Gross Domestic Product, to 1.6 per cent in the wake of the financial crisis in 2013-14 after successive Governments slashed spending.

Those levels crept up once more to 3.4 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic as the Government spent heavily to stem the damage from lockdowns, but have since subsided.

Criminal law has always been one of the worst-paid specialties in the legal world, but the Government piled on the pressure with cuts to Legal Aid.

Now, many criminal barristers at the start of their careers could earn more working in pubs.

Rosalind Burgin (28) got paid more working at a coffee shop before she qualified as a lawyer specialising in crime and housing.

“Genuinely having no money coming in means I’m borrowing money from different friends, from my partner, and I’ve never had to do that before,” Ms Burgin said.

“I’ve never been in so much debt,” she said.

“I can’t turn away cases — so the option is work through the night or get a different job.”

London, 28 August 2022

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