UK strikes: Why are people going on strike and what are their demands?

The demands of 500,000 workers holding Britain to ransom on ‘Walkout Wednesday’: Teachers, lecturers, civil servants, train workers, Border Force agents, bus drivers and security guards are all striking for better pay

  • Today will be the biggest day of strike action for decade, according to the TUC 
  • READ MORE: Labour to attack new laws meant to keep strike-hit schools open

Half a million public service workers are on strike today in what’s been dubbed ‘Walkout Wednesday’. 

Teachers, lecturers, civil servants, train workers, bus drivers, Border Force agents and security guards have all downed their tools on the biggest day of industrial action in a decade. 

The result is a general strike in all but name, which is expected to cost the economy £200million and amount to a ‘mini-lockdown’, with commuters unable to travel and parents forced to stay off work to care for their children. 

So, which sectors are walking out today and what are their pay demands? And, with more strike dates slated for the coming weeks and months, what is the status of negotiations with the Government and employers?

Here, MailOnline rounds up everything you need to know. 

Civil servants join a Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) picket line outside Department for Education in London today 


Who is striking and why?

Teachers in England and Wales, who are members of the National Education Union (NEU), will strike, with more than 23,000 schools expected to be affected.

The Department for Education has offered a five per cent pay rise to most teachers for the current school year, but the NEU is demanding a fully funded above-inflation pay rise for teachers.

READ MORE: List of schools closed across England and Wales


Support staff in Wales, who are members of the NEU, will also take part in the action.

Teacher members of the NEU in sixth form colleges in England, who have already been balloted and taken strike action in recent months, will join the walkouts in a separate but linked dispute.

School leaders in the NAHT Cymru union will also hold industrial action short of a strike – which includes abstaining from arranging cover for those taking part in any industrial action. 

Today, teacher members of the EIS union – Scotland’s biggest teaching union – will take action in Clackmannanshire and Aberdeen as part of an ongoing dispute over pay.

Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: ‘It’s about pay, but it’s massively about the funding of pay rises, and also people seeing if you don’t pay enough you get a constant through-put of teachers.’

In the 2021/22 school year, state school classroom teachers in England were paid an average of £38,982. This contrast with £39,009 in Wales and £40,026 in Scotland. Northern Ireland did not provide a figure.   

When and where are the walkouts?

The NEU is holding strikes today in England and Wales. The other proposed dates are: 

Tuesday, February 14 (just Wales) 

Tuesday, February 28 (Northern, North West, and Humber regions)

Wednesday, March 1 (East Midlands, Western, Eastern regions)

Thursday, March 2 (London, South East, South West regions) 

Wednesday, March 15 (England and Wales) 

Thursday, March 16 (England and Wales)  

Teachers at Deptford Green School in south-east London on strike today

What is the Government saying? 

Ministers say the strikes have come after a ‘record funding increase for schools in the Autumn Statement’ and the newly qualified starting salary for teachers will rise to £30,000.

It added that teachers ‘receive annual pay rises through an independent pay review process, and many teachers also see greater uplifts by progressing up the pay scales’.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: ‘Strike action is highly damaging to children’s education, particularly following the disruption that children have experienced over the past two years.

‘As part of our ongoing support to school leaders to do everything they can to keep as many children in school as possible we have requested information from schools to help inform this work.’

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said she expects the ‘majority’ of schools to remain open in England and Wales despite the teacher strikes, but added that ‘some will have restrictions’ for different cohorts.

Meanwhile, NEU joint general secretary Mary Bousted said around 85 per cent of schools are expected to be either fully or partially closed by the strike action.    


Who is striking and why?

The latest stage of a long-running dispute will involve 40,000 train workers on 14 operators who are members of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) and 21,000 train drivers belonging to Aslef. 

Rail unions complain that their members have been denied pay rises for the last three years.  

A recent offer of a four per cent pay rise for last year and another four per cent this year was rejected, with the unions arguing that conditions attached to the proposed deal, such as compulsory Sunday working, were never going to be accepted.

Paddington Station in London deserted on another day of strike action across the national rail network

The offer would have taken a train drivers’ average salary from £60,000 to nearly £65,000 for a four-day week.  

Aslef argues that more train drivers should be employed, but claims rail operators find it cheaper to pay staff overtime to work on Sundays.

Around 1,900 members of Unite employed as bus drivers by Abellio in London will walk out on February 1, 2 and 3. Unite said the decision to go ahead with the strikes follows the rejection of two pay offers.  

Thousands of firefighters and control room staff are set to strike for the first time since 2003 


When and where are the walkouts?

Services will be severely affected today, and again on Friday during a second strike, with some areas having no trains at all and those that do run will start later and finish earlier than usual. 

When train drivers walkout, only between 10 and 20 per cent of a normal timetable can run.

The companies affected include Avanti West Coast, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry; East Midlands Railway, Great Western Railway, Greater Anglia, GTR Great Northern Thameslink, London North Eastern Railway, Northern Trains, Southeastern, Southern/Gatwick Express, South Western Railway (depot drivers only), SWR Island Line, TransPennine Express and West Midlands Trains. 

Services will also be affected on non-strike days because walkouts often leave trains stranded in the wrong depots. 

What is the Government saying?

Ministers have been urging ‘pay restraint’ amid a broader wave of industrial action -warning that higher wages will fuel rising inflation. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper says unions have already been given a ‘fair’ pay offer. 

Tory MPs have also pointed out the enormous amount of taxpayer money that was ploughed into the railways during the pandemic, and the fact that no workers were put on furlough – which would have led to a 20 per cent pay cut.  


Who is striking and why?

Unprecedented strike action will hit 150 UK universities today and on more than a dozen other dates this month and next because of strikes by up to 70,000 members of the University and College Union (UCU).

The long-running dispute is over pay, working conditions and pensions.

Today, a university lecturer has said she is striking ‘for the students’ in the face of a ‘system that is breaking’ ahead of strikes over pay, working conditions and pensions cuts.

Kevin Courtney (left) and Mary Bousted, joint general secretaries of the National Education Union (NEU) speak to the media outside the Department of Education in London

Anita Naoko Pilgrim, a UCU officer for the Open University, where she teaches a Masters on Inclusive Education, said higher education in the UK is being ‘significantly degraded’ by issues such as work conditions and pay, adding that disruption to classes will ultimately benefit students.

‘We are on strike for the students, we’re on strike because the system is breaking – their learning is being disrupted, but not by us,’ the 59-year-old, who lives in Cardiff, said.  

When and where are the walkouts?

Aside from today, the UCU is currently planning strikes on the following dates: Thursday February 9 and Friday 10; Tuesday February 14, Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16; Tuesday 21, Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23; Monday 27 and Tuesday 28; Wednesday March 1 and Thursday 2, Thursday 16 and Friday 17; Monday 20, Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22. 

What are the universities saying?   

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), representing 144 employers, said it has made a ‘full and final pay offer’ for university staff of between five and eight per cent. 

It said the offer prioritises the disproportionate effect of high inflation falling on the lower paid, with a minimum of five per cent for all other members of staff.

This offer was described as the highest uplift in nearly 20 years.


Who is striking and why? 

Up to 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will strike in another long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.

This includes 1,000 workers at Border Force. 

The PCS is seeking a pay rise of 10 per cent after the government paid two per cent, which the union complained was well below the soaring rate of inflation.

The union also fears huge job losses and cuts to redundancy terms for those affected.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union walk past the Home Office on Marsham Street in Westminster today

When and where are the walkouts? 

Today civil servants in 123 government departments will walk out in what is the biggest civil service strike in a decade.

Those taking part include staff at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). 

Around 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) in Dover, Calais, Coquelles and Dunkirk will strike on February 17, 18, 19 and 20.

What is the Government saying? 

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden has said he wants to ensure that the government gets ‘the best possible deal for people working in the civil service’ but there was a need to balance this against the ‘near unprecedented strains’ on public finances. 

‘I would like us to be able to get a decent pay settlement, as I would do across all areas of the public sector, but that will have to be based on affordability through the affordability process that that we undergo with the Treasury,’ he said.

Mr Dowden added that he did not think the public ‘would expect civil servants to be at the upper end of public pay, particularly at a time when we have rapidly rising inflation’. 


Outsourced security guards at UCL, represented by the IWGB, will also be on strike today, demanding a pay rate of £15 an hour, union recognition and an end to outsourcing of services.

Today will see the biggest day of action since 2011 when well over one million public sector workers staged a one-day strike in a dispute over pensions.

As well as more strikes on Friday by train drivers, London Underground Bakerloo Line workers will walk out on Saturday, while ambulance workers and nurses will launch a fresh wave of industrial action across England and Wales from February 6.

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