First national strike in Britain by public employees in decades

Thursday, July 18, 2002

LONDON -- Hundreds of thousands of municipal employees -- from street sweepers to architects -- staged a one-day strike Wednesday, closing, libraries and recreation centers in their first national walkout in more than two decades.

The 24-hour strike over pay in England, Wales and Northern Ireland also affected social workers, garbage collectors, school cafeteria workers, librarians and government-employed architects of public housing and public works.

Despite the large numbers involved -- 750,000 workers, according to their unions -- the strike did not pose major inconvenience for most Britons, and passed unnoticed by many tourists in the capital. London museums and tourist attractions remained unaffected.

A strike by workers on London's subway system that began Monday night promised more serious disruption.

In the latest in a series of one-day actions, signalers, platform staff and some drivers started their 24-hour strike at 8 p.m. Wednesday, shutting down the London Underground, which carries 3 million passengers a day.

The strike was approved by three unions representing 1.2 million workers.

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