an unprecedented strike by nurses, at the heart of a historic social crisis

British nurses will go on strike on December 15 and 20, a move not seen in 106 years that illustrates the severity of the social crisis in the United Kingdom with job cuts in many sectors not seen for decades. “The nurses have had enough”summarized Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) trade union. “Enough of low wages, (…) enough of not being able to give patients the care they deserve”.

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Staff voted on 9 November for this unprecedented strike in the history of the RCN, established 106 years ago. This union announced on Friday 25 November two days of action on 15 and 20 December after “rejection of negotiations by the government”. According to estimates, nurses’ real wages have fallen by 20% since 2010, mainly due to the current cost of living crisis, with inflation exceeding 11%. The annual salary for a junior nurse is 27,000 gross pounds (31,400 euros).

But for Health Minister Steve Barclay, “It’s a difficult time for everyone” and the government cannot meet the requirements “prohibitive” of the RCN, which “represents a salary increase of 19.2%”.

Seven million people are awaiting treatment

One in four hospitals have set up food banks to support staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England. “We’re exhausted. We’re tired. We need a raise to live.”Ameera, a nurse at a London hospital who voted to strike, told Agence France-Presse.

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Nurses are against the strike for fear that the mobilization will harm patients. But for Ameera, who declined to be named, “It’s the British government playing with patients’ health by not increasing wages”. She talks about Covid-19, her colleagues who lost their lives there. “And why? Just to get the government and the world to applaud us” ?

This strike comes as the public health system (NHS), which has been underfunded for years, is plunged into a serious crisis. The government has announced a £3.3 billion increase in the NHS budget next year and the year after.

A nurse at a vaccination center at the Royal Free Hospital in London, December 7, 2020.

According to the Royal College of Nurses in England, 47,000 nurses are unoccupied. Last year, 25,000 nurses or midwives who worked in the public sector slammed the door. “Poor pay contributes to staff shortages across the UK, affecting patient safety”terminates the trade union.

More than 7 million people are waiting for treatment in UK hospitals, a record high.

Lawyers, postal workers, teachers…

The social movement does not only affect the health sector. Many other public and private sector workers, from lawyers to airport staff, have also gone on strike this year. In Scotland, teachers were on strike on Thursday 24 November to demand increases. University employees also stopped working Thursday and Friday, a move that affected about 2.5 million students.

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Postal workers have extended their strike until 2023, which could affect the delivery of mail and packages during the holiday season. Transport is also affected. The London Underground was paralyzed by a very popular movement on 10 November. Rail 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.

Also read: UK: London Underground paralyzed by ongoing strike

“The last major strikes go back to the 1970s and 1980s, but they primarily affected the private sector and industry. There it is primarily the public sector”explained to Agence France-Presse Pippa Catterall, professor of history at the University of Westminster, herself an attacker. “People have been under pressure for a long time. It’s not just the pay, but also the workload. We don’t see how things can change except by going on strike.’she continued.

And with record high inflation, “People are getting more and more annoyed by the cosmetic measures announced by employers and the government”.

The world with AFP

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