After a historic first strike in December, nurses resumed the strike on Wednesday in England to demand higher wages in the face of a rising cost of living and better conditions in an understaffed public health system.
In a UK that has been wracked for months by countless strikes over inflation that hit 10.5% in December, down slightly from 10.7% the previous month, it is the nurses’ protest that gets the most support.
An Ipsos poll showed 82% of those surveyed sympathized with these professionals, and 57% blamed the government for the situation.
“We go to work every day and do our best, but it is not enough because our workload is increasing and our resources are not enough,” Orla Dooley, a 29-year-old emergency room nurse, told AFP. his night shift so as not to miss the day of the strike.
Later hundreds of protesters marched to Downing Street.
Stephen Bedford, a 42-year-old mental health worker, said being a nurse was “not worth the burden now and I can understand why so many leave”.
According to a YouGov survey, a third of nurses and midwives in the public sector would prefer another profession.
– Vacancies –
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) consortium has decried that there are 47,000 nursing vacancies in England, in part because of “poor pay”.
This adds pressure and stress to staff who are overwhelmed by long waiting lists at Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), in crisis for years due to a lack of funding.
In addition, many European nurses, led by the Spanish, left the UK in the wake of Brexit, which ended the system that allowed them to count their British experience in their own countries.
According to the RCN, salaries have fallen by 20% in real terms since 2010 and British public health officials explained in September that some nurses were skipping meals to feed their children. One in four hospitals in England has set up food banks for their staff.
The nurses did indeed stage a nationwide strike in December, unprecedented in the union’s 106-year history.
But after a meeting ten days ago with Health Minister Steve Barclay, at the initiative of the Conservative government, which also brought together ministers, transport and education unions, this week they approved new strikes on February 6 and 7.
– Cancel operations and appointments –
Barclay reiterated that with the current crisis the public treasury “cannot afford” salary increases “that would fuel inflation that would impoverish us all.”
According to the minister, the December strike led to the cancellation of 30,000 operations and appointments. The NHS union, which represents hospitals, estimated the new strike would result in 4,500 operations being postponed and an additional 25,000 appointments.
In this context, Executive Director Rishi Sunak introduced a bill to establish a minimum level of services in some sectors which on Monday began to be studied by Parliament.
The prime minister defended that on Wednesday, describing it as “reasonable” and in line with other European countries.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, said: “The government has gone from applauding NHS workers during the pandemic to ignoring, humiliating and now threatening them with dismissal if they fight for a decent wage.”
Tension continues to grow in the UK in the face of a shortage that is causing difficulties for many families.
Railroad workers, postal workers and even border police have staged strikes in recent weeks.
Teachers in England and Wales on Monday called for a seven-day strike between February and March.
The GMP Paramedics and Paramedic Union announced six new days of strikes on Wednesday. On February 6th they will sync with the nurses.
In the first, a coupling of strikes in education, the railways and many officials from ports to museums threatens a chaotic day.
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