Nurses across England have launched a new round of strikes over low pay in an already disrupted public health services as inflation skyrockets.
“We take strike action with a heavy, heavy heart but a clear mind about what we want to achieve,” said nurse Anna Swift before joining a picket line in central London. “It’s time to take some action to say we need better pay; we need better conditions.”
More strikes are said to be planned for February 6 and 7 by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union, which may be unprecedented in UK history.
The latest annual inflation figures, released early Jan. 18, showed it remained close to an all-time high, with rates easing slightly in December 2022 to 10.5 percent from 10.7 the previous month.
The main union of nurses says the government has conducted no serious negotiations regarding the improvement of contracts in 2023.
In December, nurses went on strike for the first time in more than a century, following a wave of industrial action by the public sector workers hit by a cost-of-living crisis due to rising prices.
‘Unaffordable pay hikes’
Conservative UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted recession-hit Britain cannot afford to reopen public sector pay already set for this fiscal year, which ends on March 31.
“Unaffordable pay hikes will mean cutting patient care and stoking the inflation that would make us all poorer,” health minister Steve Barclay wrote in an op-ed Jan. 18, in The Independent.
He added that salary increases would “take billions of pounds away from where we need it most.”
The strikes by nurses in England and Wales in December led to the cancellation of some 30,000 elective procedures and outpatient appointments.
But Pat Cullen, head of the RCN, said nurses are “the voice of the patient” and has repeatedly urged the government to negotiate over pay to retain beleaguered staff and attract new recruits.
Meanwhile, a YouGov poll published on Jan. 17 showed more public sympathy for the nurses’ plight, saying 63 percent supported their strike.
The NHS Confederation, which represents state health care providers in England and Wales, has urged ministers to renew pay talks with trade unions.
This recent walkout could cause 4,500 canceled operations and 25,000 canceled outpatient appointments, the NHS Confederation estimated.
UK ambulance workers to strike again
Meanwhile the GMB union announced on Jan. 18 that more than 10,000 British ambulance workers, including paramedics, emergency care assistants and dispatchers, will strike four days. Union members in England and Wales plan to walk out on February 6, February 20, March 6 and March 20.
The GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison said in a statement ambulance workers are angry and say, “they are done.”
Britain is facing a wave of industrial action this winter amid the highest inflation and worst cost-of-living crisis in generations, with strikes crippling the rail network and postal service, and airports. The inflation reached a 41-year high of 11.1 percent in October.
Last year, food costs rose again, with shop prices of groceries rising over 12 percent higher than a year before. (PressTV.ir)