On January 18, 2023, a large number of nurses in the UK went on strike to protest for higher pay. This is the latest in a series of strikes that have been ongoing, causing stress on the already strained public healthcare system in the UK.
On Wednesday and Thursday two 12-hour strikes affected almost a quarter of England’s hospitals and clinics. Thousands of appointments and procedures are likely to be postponed, however emergency care and cancer treatment will continue.
In recent months, to demand higher pay amid the crisis of rising cost-of-living, nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off their jobs.
The inflation rate in the United Kingdom reached a peak of 11.1 per cent in October, due to an increase in energy and food prices. It then decreased slightly to 10.5 per cent in December.
The nurses’ union has requested a salary increase of 5 per cent above inflation, but has stated that they are willing to accept a lower offer. The Conservative government has argued that increasing public sector pay by double digits will lead to even higher inflation.
The government has sparked frustration among unions by proposing legislation that would make it more difficult for essential workers to go on strike. The bill would establish ‘minimum safety levels’ for firefighters, ambulance services, and railways that must be upheld during a strike.
The Royal College of Nurses union has announced two additional strike days next month, amid a growing disruption across the economy. The strikes are expected to be particularly disruptive on February 1, with teachers, train drivers, civil servants, and university staff all participating in walkouts. Ambulance staff are also expected to announce more strike dates later.
Pat Cullen, the head of the Royal College of Nursing, stated that the union had offered ‘an olive branch, in fact, the whole tree’ to the government and called on health officials to get round a table and stop the strikes so they wouldn’t have to continue this into February.
She further added, “I would say to the Prime Minister this morning: If you want to continue to have strikes, then the voice of nursing will continue to speak up on behalf of their patients and that’s exactly what you will get.”