The number of industrial disputes leading to strikes in the UK fell to a record low of 133 last year.
About 150,000 British workers went on strike last year
Just under half a million working days were lost in 2003 compared to 1.3 million in 2002.
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, showed some 150,000 workers were involved in strike action in 2003.
The strikes were mainly in the public administration, education, transport and communications sectors.
The Office for National Statistics estimated some 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 most working days lost through disputes in 2003 were in Northern Ireland, London and Scotland.
The least days were lost in north-east England, eastern England, the East Midlands and south-east England.
Tony Woodley, general secretary of the Transport & General Workers Union, said
it was no real surprise to see a fall in last year's strike figures as the previous year had been dominated by the local government dispute.
He said: "No one goes on strike as a first option as working people lose money.
"We are not afraid however of taking such action when it is required and we believe the government should act to end the injustice of employers still being able to sack
workers for taking lawful strike action."
The Office for National Statistics figures showed the number of working days lost through disputes has decreased through the decades, with an average of 660,000 per year in the 1990s, 7.2 million in the 1980s and 12.9 million in the 1970s.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: "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.
"When all else fails and negotiations with employers break down, unions may
opt for industrial action but only ever as a last resort."