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Calling for an increase in their pay, British nurses will mobilize on December 15 and 20, a first in 106 years. In the United Kingdom, walkouts are increasing in many sectors.
Lengthening treatment waiting times, staff shortages, chronic underfunding… In the United Kingdom, the public health system is at the end of its rope. As a result, British nurses will go on strike on December 15 and 20, an unprecedented movement in 106 years.
This mobilization comes after the government refused to raise salaries by 5% above the level of inflation.
“Nurses have had enough,” said Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) union. “Enough of the low salaries, (…) enough of not being able to give patients the care they deserve.”
According to estimates, the real salary of nurses has fallen by 20% since 2010, in particular due to the current cost of living crisis, with inflation exceeding 11%. The annual salary of a junior nurse is 27,000 gross pounds (31,400 euros).
But for Health Minister Steve Barclay, “this is a difficult time for everyone” and the government cannot meet the “unaffordable” demands of the RCN, which “represent a salary increase of 19.2%”.
The many problems of the NHS
Some 7.1 million people are awaiting treatment in the country, a record.
The economic crisis is already adding to a series of problems that the National Health Service (NHS), an institution created in 1948 and financed by taxes, has been facing for years. Because the system, which costs 190 billion pounds a year (221 billion euros) and employs 1.2 million people in England alone, has long been underfunded.
NHS England must fill 130,000 positions, including 12,000 doctors in hospitals and 47,000 nurses. The nurses are supposed to take care of four patients per call, but they are sometimes asked for twice as many while alternating day or night shifts.
Health experts say the crisis is exacerbated by 12 years of budget cuts under successive Conservative governments, as well as Brexit (many carers coming from the EU) and the pandemic, which has delayed non-emergency care.
Walkouts in several sectors
The cost of living crisis linked to record inflation in the United Kingdom has sparked many social movements in all sectors, from transport to justice and now including health.
In Scotland, teachers went on strike on Thursday demanding pay rises. University employees also stopped working Thursday and Friday, a movement that affected around 2.5 million students.
Postal workers have extended their strike until 2023, which could affect the delivery of mail and parcels during the holiday season.
Transport is also affected. The London Underground was paralyzed by a very popular movement on November 10. 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 mainly 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, itself a striker.
With AFP and Reuters