Public sector strikes fall to record low in wake of new Trade

Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. Public sector strikes fall to a record low in the wake of new Trade Union laws making it harder for workers to walk out, new data reveals.In 2018 the number of working days lost in the public sector was 26,000. This marks the lowest since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began recording such data in 1996.In contrast there were almost 250,000 days lost due to strikes in the private sector in the same year.The data comes following new legislation aimed at making it harder for workers to strike. In May 2016 the Trade Union Act became law, ensuring that strikes could only go ahead when there has been a ballot turnout of at least 50%.However Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said that the latest data was possibly due to swathes of what was formerly the public sector, becoming privatised.He said: “It might not be the full answer but the rise in private sector strikes makes it look suspiciously like a reclassification of roles, probably due to the privatization of Royal Mail.“I think Royal Mail is big enough to have had such an impact,” he added. “The whole privatisation protest lasted from around 2013-2015. But if the new legislation makes it harder to go on strike, shouldn’t we have seen a reduction in strikes in the private sector as well?” For each year between 2000 and 2016 there were more working days lost in the public sector than in the private sector even though the private sector is much larger. However, for both 2017 and 2018, there were more working days lost in the private sector than in the public sector.The number of working days lost in the private sector in 2018 was 246,000, which was the largest since 1996 when the figure was 322,000. Meanwhile, number of days lost to public sector strikes have been repeatedly high since 1996 when it was 981,000.In 2002 it was 1.1million, in 2007 it was 1million and in 2011 it reached its peak at 1.2 million.Mr Snowdon added: “It helps that there haven’t been any big strikes in the NHS for a while, which I think caused some of the big spikes in earlier years.”A spokesman for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The Government introduced more proportionate strike ballot thresholds through the Trade Union Act to ensure that when industrial action takes place, it is a result of the clear and democratic decision of union members.“We are clear that the right to strike must be balanced with the interests of working people and businesses who must be protected from the unsupported disruption that can be caused by a small proportion of union members.”

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