In 2015 the transport and storage sector had the most days lost to labour disputes of any sector of the economy, at 60,200, and also the highest rate of days lost, at 47 per 1,000 employees, according to today’s detailed annual report on labour disputes from the Office for National Statistics. This was a change from 2014, when public administration and defence accounted for much the highest rate of working days lost. Today’s report provides more detail to the headline numbers of disputes and days lost already published in the monthly labour market bulletin, looking at such areas as sectors affected, regional breakdowns, and the sizes of disputes.

Commenting on the figures, ONS labour market statistician Nick Palmer said: “Days lost to strikes last year – at 170,000 – were well down on 2014, when 788,000 days were lost to disputes. Indeed, the 2015 total was the second lowest since records began, with only 2005 lower, at 157,000 days lost. The main reason that 2014 had a higher figure than last year was that it saw a number of large scale public sector strikes that were not repeated in 2015. In all 81,000 workers went on strike in 2015, the lowest figure since records began in 1893.”

The part of the United Kingdom with the highest rate of days lost in 2015 was Northern Ireland, at 21 days per 1,000 employees, followed by London at 15 per 1,000. The North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands, the West Midlands and the East all had rates of just 1 day lost per 1,000 employees.

In 2015, by far the greatest number of days lost were in disputes over pay: 121,000 – or 71% of the total. Disputes over redundancy accounted for another 20% of the total, with disputes over all other causes making up the remainder. The predominance of pay as the main cause of labour disputes continues the pattern seen in recent years – in only three of the past 20 years was pay not the main cause of disputes, most recently immediately following the economic downturn in 2009 and 2010 when redundancy disputes accounted for more days lost than pay disputes.

Most disputes were of short duration – 60% of disputes lasted for no more than three days, with 30% being just one day. However, the percentage of disputes lasting for more than one day was noticeably higher than in recent years – 70% in 2015, compared with 54% in 2014 and just 37% in 2013. Most disputes were relatively small, with 74% of all disputes resulting in the loss of fewer than 1,000 days, but the 28 disputes that were bigger than this accounted for 91% of all days lost.

Background Notes

  1. The report is on the ONS website at:

  2. The figures cover stoppages of work caused by disputes, whether strikes or lock-outs, but do not include disputes such as work-to-rules where no stoppage occurs. Stoppages of less than a day’s duration or fewer than 10 workers are also not included unless the total number of working days lost is 100 or more.

  3. Follow us on

  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available from the media relations office.

  5. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference. © Crown copyright 2016.