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UK strikes: the return of 'the British disease'?

Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - 01:44

Britain heads into the New Year with the prospect of a strike at flag carrier BA and more upset for commuters as rail workers launch their own protest action. Ivor Bennett reports on what some fear as the return of a militant edge to Britain's industrial relations - at a particularly delicate time for its economy.

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The year may be new but the disputes are not. The tube, train and plane the UK's now familiar industrial battlegrounds. Having called off their strike at Christmas, cabin crew at British Airways will stage a 48-hour walkout next week instead. That's on top of threats at London Underground of a 24 hour strike next week, AND 3 days of stoppages at Southern rail - one of the UK's busiest train networks, both in terms of passengers and walkouts. Commuters are clearly fed up, but talk of another winter of discontent maybe overblown. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) TOM STEVENSON, INVESTMENT DIRECTOR, FIDELITY GLOBAL, SAYING: "I don't think there's a return to the 1980s style militancy in the uk economy. We've seen a slight uptick in strike action, but if you compare it to the 1970s and 1980s then the problem is nothing like as large." Back then, large parts of the country were gripped by what was known as 'the British disease'. From steel workers to lorry drivers... ... gravediggers to rubbish collectors... the strikes of 1979 lost the economy almost 30 million working days. 2016 was equivalent to just 1 percent of that, at 300,000 days. SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) TOM STEVENSON, INVESTMENT DIRECTOR, FIDELITY GLOBAL, SAYING: "It's not good news, no one wants to see these strikes, but I think in terms of does it make Britain less or more investable, I don't think it's that important." Those who have to travel may think differently though. While BA have said there'll be a contingency plan to limit the impact, passengers on Southern Rail have been advised not to travel at all. A winter of disruption, certainly, and for them discontent.

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UK strikes: the return of 'the British disease'?

Wednesday, January 04, 2017 - 01:44