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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Preparations are being made in Britain for a “Summer of Labor Discontent”

It was one of the most odd public displays in a city that has long been accustomed to raucous and colourful demonstrations: protestors wearing flowing black gowns and curled horsehair wigs holding banners on Monday outside of a courtroom in London.

However, in light of the fact that Britain is getting ready for a “summer of discontent” and that labour dissatisfaction is spreading as a result of the rising cost of living, even the attorneys are going on strike.

After the largest strikes by train employees in a decade, which occurred in June, criminal-defense lawyers are just the latest group to seek better compensation. Additionally, employees at the national airline, British Airways, as well as state schoolteachers, health care workers, and postal workers have vowed to walk off the job.

Britons are demanding better pay with a militancy that has not been seen in years, as the cost of energy continues to skyrocket, inflation accelerates near double digits, and taxes and the cost of borrowing continue to rise.

Fears of a repeat to the 1970s, when labour unrest left garbage uncollected in the streets, stopped the dead from being buried, and delivered a deadly blow to the administration of the day, have been raised in response to rumours that the nation may be crippled by strikes this summer.

Steven Freudmann, the chairman of the Institute of Travel and Tourism, which is a lobbying group, stated that the number of tourist arrivals was around 30 percent to 40 percent lower than it was before the pandemic. He added that while there were several causes — including the continuing impact of the coronavirus — the rail strike and threatened further disruption “is certainly one of the factors” in this decline.

It does not seem that any of the many groupings of employees will soon get their demands met. The government is determined to restrain increases out of concern that they would drive inflation higher and inspire even bigger salary demands, despite the fact that inflation is eating away at people’s ability to spend throughout the nation.

But Mr. Johnson also sees a political opportunity in the disruption, and he has attempted to pin the blame on the opposition Labour Party, which has strong links to trade unions and is wary of condemning striking workers. This is because Mr. Johnson believes the Labour Party is reluctant to condemn striking workers because of its close ties to trade unions.

However, Mr. Johnson also faces challenges as a result of the strikes. The promise that he made the year before to create an economy with “high wages and high skills” has since evaporated, and it has been replaced with a need for pay restriction.

And in Scotland, even the cops are involved in a wage disagreement; however, they are not threatening to go on strike; rather, they declare that they will “withdraw goodwill” by, among other things, completing their shifts precisely at the times that are indicated on their schedules.

Some of Mr. Johnson’s detractors contend that inflation was driven by external causes such as the rapidly rising cost of oil and the conflict in Ukraine, rather than wage raises, which have, on average, remained far lower than the rate of inflation. They claim that profits from corporations are a greater contributor to inflation than salaries.

They also blame the government for holding down the salaries of public sector employees for many years, which has brought workers to the brink of their financial stability and prompted them to raise their expectations.

According to Professor Fielding, the memories of the 1970s continue to haunt the British political elite; however, he did point out that there are many significant contrasts between then and today. According to him, the percentage of unionised employees is around 23 percent at the present time, which is a significant decrease from the number of unionised workers that was approximately 50 percent 50 years ago. Opinions on the striking train employees seem to be divided among the general public, according to polls, and Mr. Johnson’s efforts to blame Labour and the unions for the disruption appear to have failed, at least for the time being.

Professor Fielding said that the opposition has not been able to take advantage of a moment of weakness shown by Mr. Johnson. He went on to say that “without a counternarrative, the risk for the opposition is that the public would start to drift toward the government’s explanations.” It is possible that it will not become evident for a number of months who Britons will end up blaming for the labour unrest as the nation navigates a number of disagreements that threaten to make the lives of millions of people more difficult. As the period of instability continues, the people of Britain may have little choice but to search for meagre solace wherever they can find it.

One possible location, at least for motorists, may be Wiltshire, which is located in the western region of England. There, the traffic wardens who are responsible for issuing citations for parking offences are also threatening to go on strike.

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