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”.
Nurses’ wages have fallen by 20% since 2010
Staff voted on 9 November for this unprecedented strike in the history of the RCN, established 106 years ago. This union announced on Friday two days of action on December 15 and 20 following “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 (€31,400).
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%”.
47,000 nursing positions are unfilled
One in four hospitals have set up food banks to support staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England.
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.
According to the RCN, 47,000 nurses are unemployed in England. 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.
The social movement affects other sectors
More than 7 million people are waiting for treatment in UK hospitals, a record high.
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. Postal workers have extended their strike until 2023. Transport is also affected. Officials have also announced a social movement.