A day of standstill: On February 1st, numerous trade unions in Great Britain called for a coordinated strike, the largest strike in more than ten years. Universities, train traffic, border controls and large parts of the public service are affected.
For the first time since the wave of strikes began last year, teachers are also taking part. According to estimates by the National Education Union (NEU), around 85 percent of state schools in England and Wales will be affected. Teachers in Scotland have been on strike for several weeks.
Helen Butler, a Portsmouth primary school teacher, is taking part in a strike for the first time in 26 years as a teacher. She has always voted against strikes in the past, but this time the situation is different, she told the BBC. "We now have some colleagues who have to use the board."
For this reason, everyday school life was largely normal at the Leading Learners Multi Academy Trust, a network of four primary schools in the Manchester area. Many colleagues could not afford the loss of earnings because of the strike, said managing director Yvonne Brown.
Strikes in Great Britain have repeatedly paralyzed parts of public life for months. Railway workers have repeatedly gone on strike every day since June. Dissatisfaction in the public sector has been escalating for months, and there is talk of a "winter of displeasure" in the country.
The strikers are demanding better pay and point to years of falling real wages, a result of the austerity policies that followed the financial crisis. Trade unionists point to double-digit real wage declines in many sectors over the past ten years.
Working conditions also play a major role. The NEU says the government has fallen 41 percent short of its target for recruiting new specialist teachers for secondary schools this year.
The gap is most dramatic at 83 percent in physics classes. 70 percent is missing in computing and 66 percent in foreign languages. Pupils are therefore increasingly being taught in examination classes by non-specialist staff.
Graveney School, a secondary school in Tooting, south-west London, held classes on 1 February for only those grades that were about to graduate. Some neighboring elementary schools looked after the youngest students.
Numerous facilities had to remain closed. The Greater London area was particularly badly affected, according to initial information, a quarter of the schools remained completely and 45 percent partially closed.
Resistance to a planned restriction of the right to strike in numerous areas of public service is also playing a growing role in the strikes. With the controversial project, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak wants to enforce strict restrictions on the police, fire brigade, doctors and nurses and railway employees.
The government argues that basic services must be guaranteed in these areas. The House of Commons approved the corresponding bill in the third reading. However, the House of Lords is likely to demand changes.
An end to the clashes is not in sight. "I think we're further away from that today than when we started," says Mick Whelan, leader of the Aslef train drivers' union. Train services across the country came to a virtual standstill on February 1st.
From Euston, where trains from London to the north usually start, only trains drove to Watford Junction in the north-west of the capital, the rest of the timetable was canceled. Travelers in the direction of Birmingham, Liverpool or Manchester were put off until the next day. At the beginning of the week, the fire brigade union also received the mandate for strikes from its members.
The government would do "exactly nothing" to end the strikes, complains Sara Gorton of Unison, a public sector union. The responsible ministry has just let a deadline for proposals for adjusting salaries in the health care system expire.
"Our message to ministers is to stop undermining the right to strike and have no ulterior motive in negotiating with unions on public sector pay," said Paul Nowak, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
Despite the weeks of work stoppages and the associated disruption to public life, the government has so far made no concessions. In most industries, she has offered wage increases of between two and five percent. In December, inflation was 10.5 percent, and the cost of groceries grew even faster at 16.7 percent.
The government argues that higher wages will further fuel inflation. Education Minister Gillian Keegan said: "It makes no sense to adjust salaries above inflation for some employees" when everyone is affected by higher prices. She was "disappointed" by the strikes as talks with the union were ongoing.
Despite all the difficulties associated with the strikes, the population's understanding of the strikers remains high. According to a survey by Mumsnet, an online medium for parents, 62 percent of those surveyed supported teachers' concerns, although more than half have to take the day off to look after their children and 44 percent are concerned that teachers Strikes affect learning progress.
Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to the winter of resentment. The train will be on strike again at the end of the week, in the coming week there will be strikes among the nursing staff and the staff of the ambulance vehicles. The following week, during the school holidays, the British Museum and the Motor Vehicle Office, among others, are on strike.
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