The number of strikes in the UK fell to record low of 133 last year, according to official figures released today.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says that 499,000 working days were lost in 2003 and that some 150,000 workers were involved in strike action.
Strikes were concentrated in the service sector, with the majority taking place over pay.
The figure is less than half that of 2002, when 1,323,000 days were lost in 146 strikes.
However the figures for this year look as if they will mark a worsening of the situation. The ONS said that it estimated that 372,000 working days had already been lost to strike action in the first three months of 2004, with 135,000 workers involved in 40 stoppages.
The figures also show that the number of working days lost through disputes is on the rise after seeing steady falls over the past three decades. In the 1990s, an average of 660,000 per year were lost, in the 1980s 7.2 million, and in the 1970s 12.9 million.
But the average number of days lost during the current decade so far is 711,500.
Nevertheless, TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the figures proved that talk of a ‘summer of discontent’ was nothing more than media hype.
"The second a strike ballot is called there are voices rushing to predict a summer or a winter of discontent. These figures confirm that the opposite is in fact true," he said.
"When all else fails and negotiations with employers break down, unions may opt for industrial action but only ever as a last resort.”