Inflation in the UK stands at 10.5%, the highest in 40 years, driven by skyrocketing food and energy costs. While some expect price rises to slow this year, Britain’s economic outlook remains bleak. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund said Britain will be the only major economy to contract this year, performing even worse than sanctions-hit Russia.

The National Education Union said some 23,000 schools will be affected on Wednesday, with an estimated 85% closed in whole or in part. Others also on strike range from museum workers and London bus drivers to coastguard and border officials manning passport control booths at airports.

«Everyone is out… of course there will be some riots and some queues,» Phil Douglas, director general of the Border Force, told reporters.

Mick Whelan, general secretary of the ASLEF train drivers’ union, said the government must now listen to the workers’ demands.

“Everyone knows someone who works somewhere who is on strike, about to go on strike, or about to be voted out,” he said. “The government just has to listen now: the people of this country are speaking up, and they are saying a lot that they want an increase in the cost of living.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office acknowledged that Wednesday’s strike wave will cause «significant disruption» to the people, saying «negotiations rather than pickets are the right approach.» But union leaders say the government has refused to bargain and offer enough to stop the strikes.

Unions have also been angered by government plans to introduce a new law aimed at curbing strike disruptions by enforcing minimum service levels in key sectors, including health and transport.

Lawmakers on Monday backed the bill, which has been criticized by unions as an attack on the right to strike.

Thousands of people are expected to take part in protests against the bill in London and other cities on Wednesday.