The number of workers involved in labour disputes in the UK in 2017, at 33,000, was the lowest ever recorded, as was the number of stoppages, an Office for National Statistics (ONS) article has highlighted today. These records go back over 100 years to the 1890s.
Commenting on the figures, 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.”
Although the number of stoppages has declined in recent times, with the annual total falling for the last three years, the size of disputes has risen, with the median number of days lost per stoppage rising for the last four years.
In 2017, the industry group with the highest number of days lost was transport and storage. This sector accounted for over two-thirds of all working days lost to disputes (at 187,000 out of a total of 276,000, or 68%). It accounted for just over a third of stoppages (27 out of 79, or 34% of the total). The strikes within this sector occurred mainly in public transport.
Wages disputes accounted for about half the number of stoppages in 2017 (39 out of 79) and 205,000 working days lost (about 74% of the total). Pay has been the main cause of disputes in most recent years, except in 2009 and 2010 during and after the downturn when redundancies were the main cause, and 2016 when the main cause was working hours due mainly to a dispute involving junior doctors in the National Health Service in England.
The part of the country with the highest rate of days lost per 1,000 employees in 2017 was London, with a rate of 28 days per 1,000, while the lowest was Wales where its rate, rounded to the nearest whole number, was zero. All areas except London, Scotland and Northern Ireland saw a drop when compared with 2016.