Strike disrupts services in UK as half a million mass up

 Thousands of schools in the UK have closed some or all of their classrooms, train services have been paralysed and delays are expected at airports in what is shaping up to be the biggest day of industrial action Britain has seen in more than a decade.

Unions are stepping up pressure on the government to demand better pay during a cost-of-living crisis that is wreaking havoc on the personal finances of most Britons.

The Trades Union Congress, a federation of unions, estimated that up to half a million work­ers – including teachers, univer­sity staff, civil servants, border officials, and train and bus drivers – walked off their jobs across the country on Wednesday.

More action by workers, including nurses and ambulance staff, is planned for the coming days and weeks.

At the heart of the strikes is a bitter dispute over pay and work­ing conditions that is dragging on between unions and the govern­ment. Wednesday’s strikes mark an escalation.

The last time the country saw mass walkouts on this scale was in 2011, when well over one mil­lion public sector workers staged a one-day strike in a dispute over pensions.

Union bosses say that despite some pay rises – such as a 5 per cent offer the government proposed to teachers – wages in the public sector have failed to keep pace with soaring inflation, effectively meaning workers have been taking a pay cut.

The Trades Union Congress said Wednesday that the aver­age public sector worker is 203 pounds ($250) a month worse off compared with 2010 once infla­tion has been taken into account.

Skyrocketing food and energy costs have caused inflation in the UK to soar to 10.5 per cent, the highest rate in 40 years. While some economists expect price rises to slow down this year, Brit­ain’s economic outlook remains grim.

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