(London) Hundreds of thousands of people, teachers, London Underground drivers, doctors, civil servants, were on strike in the United Kingdom on Wednesday demanding pay rises, the same day the Conservative government unveiled its budget.
This is, according to the British media, the most important day of action for several years. The country has been facing a wave of social unrest for months while inflation remains above 10%. Britons are facing soaring food and energy prices.
In London, the underground was at a standstill, the conductors of the “Tube” having ceased work. The stations remained closed.
The teachers, on strike in England, will continue their movement on Thursday. Thousands of them demonstrated in London in the middle of the day.
Faced with the insufficiency of the government’s proposals, well below inflation which exceeds 10%, many are leaving the profession at an “alarming” rate, Kim Allen, a teacher from London, told AFP and “we feels like the message hasn’t gotten through.”
“We are literally fed up with the way we are treated”, “we are coming together to tell the government that we are serious”, she added, in a wave of union flags in Trafalgar Square.
The hospital doctors, who started their action on Monday, did not return to their posts and joined the demonstration.
” Insult ”
As Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt presented his budget to Parliament, civil servants demonstrated outside Downing Street, with drums and whistles. “What do we want? 10%! When do we want it? NOW ! “, chanted the demonstrators.
Jil Gant, a 59-year-old prison service worker, called the government’s proposed 2% raise an “insult”. “It’s time for the government to listen to what we have to say,” she told AFP.
“We are currently seeing the biggest wave of strikes in the UK for years. Ordinary people say, ‘We’ve had enough’,” said Mark Serwotka, the general secretary of PCS, the first public sector union.
“In the UK we have the toughest anti-union legislation, it’s very difficult to organize a strike,” he told AFP. “The fact that so many people are on strike makes me optimistic that we can win.”
Tens of thousands of civil servants are forced to go to food banks while others have to “skip meals”, he said earlier on Sky News.
“It’s a real scandal. […] It is a shame for the government to have such a level of poverty in the public service”, had criticized the trade unionist, stressing that civil servants “must now apply for social assistance”.
During the presentation of the budget on Wednesday, Jeremy Hunt estimated at 94 billion pounds (157 billion $ CAN) over two years the government measures put in place for purchasing power.
In particular, the government announced the extension for three months of the energy price cap for households, which should have increased on April 1.
Jeremy Hunt also announced a 12-month extension of the fuel tax freeze.