Strike action in the UK: the inconvenient truth

Strike action in the UK is always divisive. Whether it’s our train staff, NHS employers, or even our barristers – some of the most important workforces in our country have had enough. They’re undervalued, overworked, and most importantly – underpaid. But despite being justifiably pissed off, their strike action hasn’t exactly been met with widespread support.

Widespread support or not though, there’s been an undercurrent of striking in the UK since the 17th century. From post-WWI demands for better pay, to Thatcher’s attempts to stem the tide in the 80s – the recent events show that what we’re seeing is hardly anything new. Having said that, the mounting numbers of working days lost to strikes presents yet another unwelcome concern for Boris and his crumbling government.

Poundhog Day

Like we said, we’ve been here before with strike action in the UK. The CBA (that’s Criminal Bar Association, not Can’t Be Arsed) are the latest in a growing movement of workers that are taking what they believe to be last resort – but totally necessary – action in order to force change. It’s not pretty. It’s not convenient either. Yet there’s a small part in most of us that can’t help but think ‘good on you’.

For context, The CBA is asking for a 25% pay increase for legal aid work, representing those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a lawyer. And when findings stated that some junior barristers earn less than the hourly minimum wage – it’s not hard to see why they’re taking action.

It’s not just barristers themselves that are affected either. A broken and mismanaged justice system means that justice itself can’t be fully carried out, which is a problem for us all.

Food for thought, isn’t it? This intent vs action gap is something we’ve talked about before.


It’s not all fist pumps and placards though. As much as the CBA et al believe this strike action is an absolute must – it doesn’t actually represent a solution to the problem. And if we think about those who are most impacted. It’s us. The harsh reality a lot of people are faced with doesn’t give them an opportunity to strike. You strike, and you’re fired – it really is as simple as that in some cases.

Underpaid NHS and RMT underpaid employers would probably be the last people you’d expect to be described as privileged, but that hasn’t stopped criticism being levelled at their door. Labelled as petulant by some, while the very party that is meant to underpin what union action stands for has failed to give their unwavering support.

It’s hardly been plain sailing for the growing sense of radical action taken by workforces up and down the country. Employers have had their say, whilst MPs have bitten back and returned the blame to those taking drastic measures.

Double-edged sword 

The issues are nowhere near as cut and dry as either side would like to make out if we’re honest. Does strike action cause massive economic issues that are the last thing any of us need during a cost of living crisis? Well, of course.

Financially speaking, there couldn’t be a worse time for essential services to be disrupted let alone for the trickle-down effect on an already fragile economy. But if outcomes like Roe v Wade being overturned just over a week ago teach us anything, it’s that now more than ever we should be doing the utmost to preserve our basic human rights.

So here’s to the strikers. May your inconvenience cause you to instigate change, and may your salaries and appreciation reflect the incredible work that you do.

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