Employee Engagement

The number of strikes in the UK last year was the lowest recorded to date, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). There were 79 stoppages in 2017, the lowest figures since records began in 1891.

The number of workers involved in labour disputes also fell to an all-time low of 33,000. And there were 276,000 working days lost due to strike action, giving 2017 the sixth lowest annual total.

Nearly 70% (68%) of the working days lost were in the transport and storage sector, mainly in public transport, including rail services.

Last year railway firms were hit by disputes over proposed changes to the role of train conductors. However, out of the total 79 stoppages last year, 39 were over pay.

ONS senior statistician David Freeman said: “While the number of days lost wasn’t quite a record low, it has significantly reduced since the early 1990s.

“This is a stark contrast to the levels seen when the miners went on strike in the 1970s and 1980s, and the even greater levels of industrial action in the 1910s and 1920s.”

‘More barriers’

In the private sector 232,000 working days were lost last year, the most since 1996.

However, the number of working days lost in the public sector in 2017, at 44,000, was the lowest on record.

Since the Trade Union Act 2016 came into force in March 2017, ballots on strikes in the public sector have to clear two thresholds to go ahead – a 50% turnout and 40% of those eligible to vote need to vote for strike action.

TUC senior employment rights officer Hannah Reed said the changes made it harder for public sector workers to go on strike: “The government’s draconian trade union act restricts workers’ ability to defend their jobs, pay and working conditions.

“This is especially the case in the public sector where union members face more barriers to call a strike,” she said.

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