“We've been robbed long enough. It's time to strike.”
Strikes are when workers refuse to work for their employers. In the UK, many strikes have happened recently. But… why? Strikes occur to address various complaints about working conditions. The focus of these strikes have been in key sectors, such as healthcare (doctors, ambulance workers and nurses), education (teaching staff) and transport (railway / bus workers). According to the BBC, in 2021, 50% of public sector workers were in a union; strikes can only happen if workers agree in a ballot (organised vote).
The quote above is the slogan of the Minnesota Iron Range miners strike of 1916 and could equally be applied to strikes recently witnessed in the UK. On 30th October 2022, METRO News reported that, “Two-thirds of 1000 nurses surveyed for a recent (Florence healthcare platform) report, are being forced to choose between food or fuel in the face of the cost of living crisis.” Therefore, many nurses were also faced with poor mental health and left struggling. Strikes are crucial to address worker grievances. Additionally, UK transport workers chose to strike on 3rd June - the FA Cup Final date - generating much public attention.
Public opinion is split when it comes to strikes. This is because people may believe that workers deserve to be heard, however others may believe strikes cause many negative impacts for society. Due to the upcoming strike on 3rd June, many football fans are angered by the difficulties they will have to endure to attend the match. Contrasting this approach, Japanese transport workers took action in 2018, by refusing to charge customers, rather than disrupting services. Arguably, this approach generated more public support, and might be adopted by UK transport workers.
Having opposed the strikes and rejecting the union demands, the UK government was forced to negotiate in the face of public opinion, media backlash and the negative economic impacts.
In my opinion, strikes should be allowed because they gain public attention. Many of the strikers have family responsibilities and strikes are the only way to improve their terms and conditions (including pay). Some 65% of the public support strikes (YouGov: January 2023) and I agree with them. If you believe that your working conditions are unfair, should you not be able to speak out? Strikes give many workers a voice. Workers undertaking industrial action deserve to be heard.