15 August 2023

More than four million working days lost since strikes began

15 August 2023

The number of working days lost since the current period of strike action began has passed four million, new figures show.

Some 4.1 million days are estimated to have been lost in labour disputes in the UK from June 2022 to June 2023 – the highest for any 13-month period since July 1989 to July 1990, when 5.0 million were lost.

Data for last month’s strikes by junior doctors, hospital consultants, teachers and rail workers has yet to be compiled.

Further strikes this month by doctors, consultants and rail workers will push the cumulative total even higher.

The figures have been published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and include provisional numbers for June 2023.

The present spell of industrial action kicked off in June 2022 when members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) staged their first stoppage in a dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

It was soon followed by a sequence of high-profile strikes ranging from barristers, civil servants and university lecturers to postal workers, driving examiners, nurses and ambulance staff.

While many disputes have now been settled, some remain unresolved including those involving junior doctors and the RMT.

December 2022 saw the most working days lost in a single month during the current period of strike action, at 829,000.

This is the highest monthly total since November 2011, when 997,000 were lost.

It is also the second highest total since July 1989, when 2.4 million were lost.

More than half (54%) of the working days lost from June 2022 to June 2023 were in transport, storage and communication industries, according to analysis by the PA news agency.

This reflects the frequency of rail strikes, together with recurring disputes involving Border Force staff and driving instructors.

Nearly a quarter (23%) were to do with education, 11% health and social work and 8% public administration.

More days have been lost in the private sector (2.2 million) than the public sector (1.9 million), though the proportions have varied from month to month.

In December 2022, the month with the highest number of working days lost, 80% were in the private sector, driven mainly by the volume of disputes in the rail and postal industries.

But in March 2023, which saw the second highest monthly total, 89% of days lost were in the public sector, reflecting a wave of strikes involving civil servants, junior doctors and teachers.

March also saw the highest number of individual workers involved in disputes, at 303,000, while December saw around half that figure, at 155,000 workers.

Disputes affecting London and north-west England together accounted for nearly a third (31%) of all working days lost in the 13 months to June this year.

There were 679,300 days lost in London (17% of the total) and 579,200 (14%) in the North West.

South-east England saw the next highest number, at 499,000 days (12%), followed by Scotland (470,900, also 12%).

Northern Ireland recorded the fewest days lost, 138,600, accounting for just 3% of the UK total.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox