UK: Nurses vote for unprecedented nationwide strike

UK: Nurses vote for unprecedented nationwide strike

Nurses across the UK have voted for the first time for a nationwide strike to demand higher wages, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union said on Wednesday as the country is hit by record inflation. The strike “should begin before the end of the year,” the RCN announced in a press release without further details. “Many of the largest hospitals in England will be affected by this social movement,” he added.

The strike will affect public health facilities, where a majority of nurses voted for the movement, the union specifies. “The results are loud and clear,” responded Pat Cullen, Secretary of the RCN, quoted in the press release.

“The anger turned into action, our members said + enough is enough +”, she added, denouncing the working conditions and low salaries of the nurses. A recent analysis showed that the salary of an experienced nurse has fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010.

A salary increase of 5% above inflation

The union is demanding a wage increase of 5% above inflation as measured by the retail price index, which exceeded 12% in September (the consumer price index, a measure of general price levels, reached 10.1% in September).

The exact nature of the strike is yet to be determined, but it’s likely patients who are already facing record waiting lists will face disruptions to surgeries and appointments. “This action is for both the patients and the nurses. Conditions have deteriorated so much and we have strong public support to improve them,” defended Pat Cullen, urging the government to allocate funds within what it has set Budgets to be released are to be presented next week.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt are already facing a £50 billion public finance hole but have claimed the public health system (NHS) is one of their priorities. “We greatly appreciate the hard work and dedication of our nurses,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters on Wednesday. The government supports a “fair” bargaining deal with the RCN, he added.

“In the current situation it’s just not possible”

But the demand for a 17 per cent pay rise if extended to all NHS workers would cost £9bn (€10.2bn), the spokesman continued. “It’s just not possible in the current situation,” he said.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay also praised the work of NHS staff in a statement, but said he “deeply regrets” the vote, recalling that the Government gave a £1,400 pay rise to more than a million NHS workers this year, having increased by 3% last year. “Our priority is to ensure patient safety during the strike,” he added.

Union actions have been combined in the country in recent months amid runaway inflation. Tens of thousands of workers in various sectors – from the postal service to the judiciary to telecommunications – have been on strike since this summer.


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