Teachers, rail workers, and civil servants are all taking part in industrial action to protest pay and working conditions. It comes as firefighters have voted to strike for the first time since 2003 after real-term earnings “dropped by 12 percent”, accusing Sunak of “misjudging” the public mood.
The Prime Minister and Chancellor have accused striking workers of risking Britain’s economic recovery as the IMF downgraded growth once again due to skyrocketing inflation and high interest rates.
The IMF predicts a contraction of 0.6 percent against the 0.3 percent growth forecast last October.
However, it increased its prediction for growth next year up to 0.9 percent from 0.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the US is predicted to grow by 1.4 percent, Germany 0.1 percent, 0.7 percent in France, 0.6 percent in Italy, 1.8 percent in Japan and 1.5 percent in Canada.
According to the IMF, the UK is heading for the worst economic performance of the G7 as it becomes the only nation to suffer a year of falling GDP.
It said the UK’s forecasted GDP decline reflects “tighter fiscal and monetary policies and financial conditions and still-high energy retail prices weighing on household budgets”.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt attempted to quash concerns: “Short-term challenges should not obscure our long-term prospects – the UK outperformed many forecasts last year, and if we stick to our plan to halve inflation, the UK is still predicted to grow faster than Germany and Japan over the coming years.”
A spokesperson for Mr Sunak said: “I think we are in no doubt that the sort of strike action we have seen does have an impact on businesses already hit hard by the pandemic, not least the rail strikes.
“Collectively this sort of continued action will hit people who have already suffered a great deal.
“That is why we continue to ask the unions to step back and negotiate rather than take strike action.”
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Financial experts have estimated that strike action in the UK has cost the economy over £2 billion.
Economist Karl Thompson from the Center for Economics and Business Research said: “We estimate that the days of work directly lost to strike action over the last eight months have cost the economy £1.4 billion.
“On top of this, an additional £0.5 billion across this period is estimated in days lost among those both unable to commute and work from home on rail strike days.
“Additional costs on top of this include the hit to hospitality and retail businesses.”
He added: “While forces of this magnitude are likely not themselves large enough to drive a recession, they are unhelpful for UK growth at a time when the economy is teetering on the edge of recession.”
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General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, Matt Wrack said: “The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers.
“Rishi Sunak’s government has refused to make funding available for a decent pay offer to firefighters and control staff.
“The Prime Minister has badly misjudged the public mood by imposing pay cuts on key workers.”
Meanwhile, Sunak insisted: “I would love – nothing would give me more pleasure – than to wave a magic wand and have all of you paid lots more.”
However, she argued that it is “not an easy job” to balance the needs and competing interests for government funding.