UK nurses have staged an unprecedented second strike amid an increasingly bitter battle with the government for better wages.
Up to 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are holding their latest one-day strike on Tuesday after going out Last Thursday for the first time in the union’s 106-year history.
They are demanding inflation-driven wage increases to make up for years of real wage cuts, but the government insists Britain is in recession unable to pay anything beyond the 4-year increase. 5%.
“We need more money, we need more staff, we need patient safety,” 21-year-old Lucy Savage said on a fence outside Aintree University Hospital in Liverpool. northwest.
“We are overworked and underpaid, NHS [National Health Service] Just a mess.”
Suni George, 45, says his salary has barely changed in his 17 years as a nurse.
“We’re taxed a lot so even if the annual income seems to go up, we don’t have more money,” he said outside that hospital.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from London, said the strike “will certainly affect healthcare delivery in the NHS”.
“Of course, the purpose of the strike is to cause disruption,” Hull said.
He added: “And there will be a second day of disruption with nurses joining the fences across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“It was history – this chain of nurses on strike. They are the largest in the Royal College of Nursing’s 106-year history and indeed in the history of the NHS itself – something many in the select line say have been the subject of funding cuts and lack of funding for many years… nurses too. themselves, who say they’ve lost up to 20 percent of real wages because wages haven’t kept up with inflation.”
Dave Carr, a nurse and member of the RCN, said industrial action was the “last resort” attempt to get the government to change tactics.
“We have been forced into a position where we can no longer provide [proper] the level of care for our patients because of the lack of staff,” Carr told Al Jazeera.
“There are 47,000 vacancies for nursing positions in the NHS,” he added, noting that the health service was unable to recruit and retain people because of low wages due to inflation.
“We don’t want to go on strike but this is our last resort and the only way we feel that we can make the government aware of their dire policies in the NHS.”
The nurses on strike are just some of the many UK public and private sector workers taking industrial action over wages and working conditions, as they grapple with the crisis The cost of living was made worse by high inflation for decades.
The UK consumer price index is currently close to 11%.
Ambulance workers, including paramedics and call handlers, will go on strike on Wednesday.
A second such strike is scheduled for December 28, while others, including postal, rail and Border Force workers, are organizing strikes over the Christmas period.
The RCN has criticized Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government for refusing to discuss wages as part of stalled negotiations.
RCN director Pat Cullen said nurses will take more extensive industry action next month if the dispute is not resolved.
“If this government continues to treat our nursing staff as coldly as they have to date, unfortunately, by January we will see more hospitals involved and families,” she said. more work and that means more nursing staff involved.
The union has also accused health secretary Steve Barclay of adopting a “masculine” negotiating style in recent briefings.
“RCN claims are unsustainable during these difficult times and will take money away from frontline services while they are still recovering from the impact of the pandemic,” Barclay said. said on Monday.
He and other ministers have reiterated that they can only accept the recommendations of an independent salary review body.
The government-designated body, which includes economists and HR experts, urges the healthcare sector in hiking to pay at least £1,400 ($1,740) from an increase of 3 .0% last year.
But critics say it is constrained by the government-imposed budget cap and its review, announced in July, ahead of the current higher rate of inflation.
Ministers plan to dispatch 750 military personnel to drive ambulances and perform logistical roles to mitigate the impact of the strikes.
Polls show that the majority of people support the nurses’ stance and to a lesser extent other workers give up.
A YouGov poll for December reported by The Sunday Times found that nearly two-thirds supported the nurses, while half supported the shutdown of ambulance workers.
However, after a year of strikes in the rail industry, only 37% support their workers as they continue to dispute over wages and working conditions.