'Biggest' Day Of Strike Action In A Decade Commences With Mass Strikes Across The UK
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The 'biggest' day of strike action in a decade has commenced with teachers, train drivers, university staff and more taking part in industrial action.
Hundreds of thousands of UK workers are participating in a mass walkout today over pay, working conditions, pensions and casual or zero hours contracts among other issues.
Public-facing professions ranging from nursing and paramedics to postal and rail workers have taken action in recent months as the cost of living crisis continues to leave millions across Britain struggling to get by, with many having seen steep real-terms pay cuts for years.
Today (1st February), teachers, civil servants, university staff, rail workers and some bus drivers are taking action in what marks the 'biggest' day of strike action in a decade.
Around 85% of schools in England and Wales are estimated to be fully or partially closed today, with around 300,000 teachers who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) staging walkouts.
In addition, over 70,000 members of staff from 150 universities are similarly taking action, with this expected to continue for a period of 18 days between February and March.
One university lecturer, Dr Anita Naoko Pilgrim, has stated that she is striking 'for the students', telling PA: “We are on strike for the students, we’re on strike because the system is breaking – their learning is being disrupted, but not by us. It’s being disrupted because of the broken system that is farming out their teaching and marking to poorly-paid people.
“I tell my daughter ‘don’t become an academic’, and we’re pleased she has chosen a different career pathway because we’re exhausted and 60-hour weeks are very common… I just can’t go on like it really.
“Higher education in the whole of the UK is being significantly degraded."
General secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), Jo Grady, told Sky News' Kay Burley this morning: "The university sector is sitting on £40 billion of reserves. Our employers themselves have said that £1.5 billion, just 3% of that £40 billion, would settle our dispute.
"[...] Putting that aside for a moment, this isn't just a pay dispute. In terms of the non pay related issues, we have 100,000 people on casualised contracts. Let me put that in context for people watching - these are people who, when you work out the amount of hours that they put in, they might be paid £3 an hour to mark an exam script or an essay. "[...] Universities have built a business model that relies on people who care continuing to do things for free whilst also paying them 25% less than they did in 2009 and constantly attacking their pensions."
In addition to teachers and university staff taking action, approximately 100,000 civil servants are staging a 24-hour demonstration, involving staff from government ministries, driving test centres, museums, ports and airports. Speaking on why she is striking, one civil servant told PA: "It is really, really hard. I am terrified every day. I am always worried I am one crisis away from homelessness. I am just one pay cheque away from being homeless. We shouldn’t be in this situation … we are working for the government."
In total, an estimated 500,000 workers across these sectors are striking today according to the Trades Union Congress.
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