On Wednesday, nurses throughout England started two days of walkouts over salary, causing more disruptions for patients in the ailing public health system as recent data revealed that inflation was still on the rise.
After nurses staged their union’s first stoppage in more than a century last month, leading a wave of industrial action by UK public sector employees affected by a cost-of-living crisis brought on by spiraling costs, the walkout followed.
Inflation rates declined marginally in December to 10.5 percent from 10.7 percent the month before, according to the most recent yearly statistics, which were issued early on Wednesday.
The largest nursing union charges the government of neglecting to seriously engage in negotiations to improve their wage agreement for the current year, which they claim is essential given the current state of the economy.
Before forming a picket line in the middle of London, nurse Anna Swift declared, “We take strike action with a heavy heavy heart but a clear mind about what we want to achieve.”
She told Sky News, “It’s time to do something to say we need better salary, we need better conditions.
The most recent strike puts further strain on the National Health Service (NHS) at a time when demand is at its highest due to winter illnesses and lengthening treatment waiting lists brought on by Covid cancellations and understaffing.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union has announced additional strikes on February 6 and 7, which it claims would “be at the highest intensity” in its history.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister of the Conservative party, has stated that the recession-stricken United Kingdom cannot afford to change the public sector pay that has already been fixed for this fiscal year, which ends on March 31.
He has made suggestions that future compensation agreements, managed by pay review organizations whose independence from the government has been questioned, should be more flexible.
Health minister Steve Barclay said in an opinion piece published in The Independent on Wednesday that “unaffordable pay hikes will mean lowering patient care and fueling the inflation that would make us all poorer.”
Increases in pay would “take billions of pounds away from where we need it most,” he continued.
Around 30,000 elective surgeries and outpatient appointments were postponed in December, according to Barclay, as a result of two days of nurse strikes in England and Wales.
However, Pat Cullen, the head of the RCN, has frequently asked the government to negotiate over wages in order to keep struggling employees and draw in new hires, claiming that nurses are “the voice of the patient.”
She told ITV, “Let’s all get together, sit down, and have honest discussions about how we’re going to handle the issue within the health sector.
The public has expressed sympathy for the nurses despite the interruption to the NHS. According to a YouGov poll released on Tuesday, 63 percent of people backed their strike.
Ministers have been asked to restart pay negotiations with unions by Matthew Taylor, the president of the NHS Confederation, which represents public health care providers in England and Wales.
Give the NHS a fighting chance, and do all in your power to put a stop to this destructive conflict, is our advice to the government, added Taylor.
According to the NHS Confederation, this week’s boycott may result in 25,000 missed outpatient visits and 4,500 cancelled procedures.
The GMB union, which represents ambulance workers, is also anticipated to make a strike announcement on Wednesday.
This month, ambulance drivers and paramedics staged their second two-month protest over salary and working conditions.
“Government silence on pay provides… no option but to strike,” the GMB tweeted on Tuesday.
In the meantime, Sunak’s contentious legislation that would make some frontline employees maintain a minimal level of service during strikes received early support from MPs on Monday.