Several sectors of the British economy are being affected by a protest movement on an unprecedented scale.
British nurses go on strike on 15 and 20 December, a movement unprecedented in 106 years, illustrating the severity of the social crisis in the UK with strikes in many sectors not seen for decades. “The nurses have had enoughsummed up Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) union. No more low wages, (…) no more being able to give patients the care they deserve“.
Staff had voted on 9 November in favor of this unprecedented strike in the history of the RCN, created 106 years ago. This union announced two days of action on Friday December 15 and 20 after “refusal of negotiations by the governmentIt is estimated that the real salary of nurses has decreased by 20% since 2010, mainly due to the current cost-of-living crisis, with inflation exceeding 11%. The annual salary of a novice nurse is 27,000 pounds sterling (31,400 euros).
But for the Minister of Health, Steve Barclay, “it’s a difficult time for everyone“and the government can’t meet the demands”unsustainableof the RCN, whichrepresent a salary increase of 19.2%One in four hospitals have set up food banks to support staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England.
This strike comes as the public health system (NHS), which has been underfunded for years, is plunging into a major crisis. The government has announced an increase in the NHS budget of £3.3bn next year and the following year.
According to the RCN, 47,000 nursing positions are vacant in England. Last year, 25,000 nurses or midwives working in the public sector slammed the door. “Low pay contributes to staff shortages across the UK, impacting patient safety“, denounces the union. More than 7 million people are waiting for treatment in British hospitals, a record.
Many sectors on strike
But the social movement does not only affect the health sector. Many other public and private sector employees, from lawyers to airport ground staff, also went on strike this year.
In Scotland, teachers went on strike on Thursday demanding wage increases. University employees also stopped work on Thursday and Friday, a move that affected an estimated 2.5 million students. Postal workers have extended their strike through 2023, which could affect the delivery of mail and packages during the holiday season.
Transportation is also affected. The London Underground was paralyzed by a very popular movement on November 10th. The railway workers have announced several days of action between now and the end of the year and the first week of January. Officials have also announced a social movement.
“The last major strikes date back to the 1970s and 1980s, but they mostly affected the private sector and industry. There, it is mainly the public sector“, explained to AFP Pippa Catterall, professor of history at the University of Westminster, herself a striker. “People have been under pressure for a long time. It’s not just the salaries, but also the workload. (…) We don’t see how things can change except by going on strike“, has continued. And with record inflation,people are increasingly irritated by the cosmetic measures announced by employers and the government“.
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