London — Thousands of nurses in Britain went out on Wednesday in a new protest against pay, which has no end in sight a wave of strikes which has increased the pressure on the overburdened UK health system. Two 12-hour strikes on Wednesday and Thursday affected about a quarter of hospitals and clinics in England. Urgent care and cancer treatment will continue, but thousands of appointments and procedures will likely be postponed.
Nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border guards, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off the job in recent months to demand a pay rise. cost of living crisis.
Inflation in the UK hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October due to a sharp rise in energy and food prices, before easing slightly to 10.5% in December.
The nurses’ union had sought a 5% inflation-adjusted wage increase, although it said it would accept a lower offer. The Conservative government claims that a double-digit increase in public sector wages will lead to higher inflation.
“Unsustainable pay rises will mean cuts to patient care and fuel inflation that will make us all poorer,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote in the Independent newspaper.
The government has also angered unions by introducing a bill that would make it harder for key workers to strike by setting “minimum safety levels” for firefighters, ambulance services and the railway to be maintained during the walkout.
The Royal College of Nursing union has announced two more days of strike action next month as disruption to the economy looks set to intensify. February 1 will be the most destructive day when teachers, machinists, civil servants and university employees will take to the streets. Ambulance workers are due to announce new strike dates later on Wednesday.
Pat Cullen, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said the union had “handed the government an olive branch, in fact the whole tree”, and called on health officials to “get around the table and stop the strikes so we don’t have to continue this in February”.
“I would say to the Prime Minister this morning, if you want to go ahead with the strikes, then the voice of nurses will continue to speak on behalf of their patients and that’s exactly what you’re going to get,” she told ITV.
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