Too Many Strikes in UK?

Too Many Strikes in the UK?

1921 was the year 85,872,000 working days were lost.

1926 was the year of the only General Strike in Britain.

  • 1912 was the year 40,890,00 working days were lost.
  • 1893 was the year 30,000,000 working days were lost.
  • 1972 was the year 23,909,000 working days were lost.
  • 1979 was the year 29,474,000 working days were lost.
  • 1984 was the year 27,135,000 working days were lost.


Measured by the 2,734,000 workers involved and  162 million “lost” working days in 1926, there not too many strikes today. In 2013 there were only 444,000 working days lost. In the 21st century there were only 3 years with just over one million working days “lost”. These figures are almost too small to appear on the above chart. From the perspective of organised workers there are too few strikes!

The notes above give the highest levels of workers’ actions. In the 20th century most strikes varied between I and 5 million days “lost”. In the 21st century the figures vary around half a million.

Another way of looking at these figures is that there were only 22 years with over one million days, out of the last 122 years. So the current 12 months with over 800,000 days is close to most of the historical data. Put differently, out of the last 122 years, 99 of them were below one million.

The decline of strikes is only a decline by comparison with a few high years. Current actions by workers are in line with most of the historical data. Yet anger by people adversely affected by strike action is real, and advertised well in the media. Dealing with this anger is difficult for trade unions. Apart from the points made above, not often found in the media, low pay is the most immediate cause of strike action. This point shows that legitimate anger needs to be made aware of low pay, and the current low levels of strike action.

Finally, strikes are often resorted to after negotiations have failed. They are a tactic of the last resort.

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