RMT union members on strike at Euston station, London, last October (Picture: Guy Smallman)

While most of the media and politicians are bemoaning the big rise in strike figures, we’re cheering. It’s a sign that our side is fighting back

Figures released on Tuesday showed 467,000 working days “lost” to strikes in November 2022. That’s more than the annual figure—for 12 months—in most recent years. And it brings the number of strike days in 2022 to a 30-year high.

The total number of strike days lost to strike action between June to November 2022 was 1,628,000, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. It added that the main areas hit were “transport and communications, and education”.

It means that 2022 had the greatest number of strike days since 1990. Figures released in December had already shown that 2022 had lost the greatest number of days in more than a decade, even though data for the full year had yet to be released.

The number in 2022 is still well short of 1979, which saw  29.5 million strike days. But what matters is the shift and the sense of momentum.

We need more and bigger and longer strikes. On the same day that the strike figures came out, another set of statistics showed real wages falling at an annual rate of 3.8 percent in November. And that’s on the basis of the fake CPI inflation rate. The more accurate RPI measure would show a fall of over 5 percent. And, because managers and high earners distort the figures, for many workers the cut in pay is bigger. 

TUC union federation general secretary Paul Nowak said, “Workers have been losing hundreds of pounds from their annual pay over the last year. That’s why staff have had no choice but to use their right to strike to defend their pay.”

He added, “The best way to settle disputes is around the negotiating table.” But it’s completely obvious that only serious strikes have moved the Tories and bosses at all, and only more action can chalk up real victories.

Commenting on the figures chancellor Jeremy Hunt said, “The single best way to help people’s wages go further is to stick to our plan to halve inflation this year. We must not do anything that risks permanently embedding high prices into our economy, which will only prolong the pain for everyone.”

It’s not workers who are raising prices, it’s the chaos of the capitalist system and firms’ profiteering. And the way to make wages go further is to put them up through militant strikes.

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