In the UK, tens of thousands of nurses and ambulance workers went on strike on Monday in what the unions described as the largest walkout in the nation’s public health system’s history.
The walkout is the most recent in a string of protests that have interrupted Brits’ lives for months in response to workers’ demands for pay increases to keep up with double-digit inflation, particularly in the public sector.
In recent months, several occupations have walked off the job protesting lower pay, including teachers, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border agents, driving instructors, bus drivers, and postal workers.
Teachers, health professionals, and many others claim that their actual incomes have decreased during the past ten years.
Rapidly rising food and energy prices are exacerbating this cost-of-living dilemma.
According to Victoria Busk, a trainee nursing associate at a trauma center in Birmingham, central England, hospitals is understaffed, where nurses are “driven off our feet 24/7.”
She stated that “we need people to want to come into” the field. Raising wages and ensuring it’s something people want to do is the only ways we can do it.
In December, Britain’s annual inflation rate reached a 41-year high of 10.5%. According to the Conservative government, paying public sector employees 10% or more will boost inflation.
The walkout puts additional strain on the National Health Service, which is sponsored by the government and is already struggling to keep up with demand due to winter viruses, staffing shortages, and backlogs created by the COVID-19 epidemic.
The 48-hour protest by nursing unions is expected to cause hundreds of appointments and procedures to be rescheduled, although emergency care and cancer treatment will continue, according to the unions.
During a daylong strike, the ambulance service claims it will answer the most urgent calls. However, Business Secretary Grant Shapps warned that the strike might endanger lives and make having a heart attack or stroke “a postcode lottery” for some individuals.
There have been “no negotiations at any level whatsoever with the government,” according to Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union that represents certain ambulance personnel, on wages.
She encouraged Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, to “roll up your sleeves and negotiate on the salary in the NHS – that is, come to the table and bargain.”
The Royal College of Nursing union’s president, Pat Cullen, added that the strike might be “quickly ended” if the government made a “real” compensation offer.
There are no plans for the prime minister to participate directly in negotiations, according to Sunak’s spokesperson Max Blain, but “we want to keep discussing how we can find a road ahead with the unions.”
While the administration claims it will only discuss the coming year, unions are asking for salary increases for the current year.
The nursing strike impacts England on Monday. Union walkouts have been put on hold in Scotland and Wales, where semiautonomous governments are in charge of health policy.
The introduction of a measure by Sunak’s government that will make it more difficult for essential workers to strike by establishing “minimum safety levels” for railways, firefighters, and ambulance services that must be maintained during a walkout has also enraged unions.