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Industrial action in the health services: historic strike action in the British NHS

Status: 06.02.2023 11:37 am

Delayed surgeries, fewer ambulances: Britain’s health service NHS is under attack like never before. Criticism is coming from the government and negotiations are tough.

Nurses in the UK are protesting for better pay and fair working conditions, with the largest strike in the history of the National Health Service (NHS), the British health service. Tens of thousands of workers will walk off their jobs by Tuesday. Rescue workers also refuse to work for the first time in the same period. Criticism comes from the government, but according to unions, basic services are guaranteed.

Tens of thousands of people are on strike in Britain for higher healthcare pay

Annette Dittert, ARD London, Daily News at 8:00pm, February 6, 2023

The union is demanding more than ten percent

The strike is about a lot of money: the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) professional union is demanding a pay rise, which has recently risen by more than ten per cent above the rate of inflation. But the government has refused to sit down with the RCN since the strike began. A sharp increase in wages would raise consumer prices too much, they say, and therefore would not be sustainable.

There has also been criticism of the timing of the strike: Health Secretary Steve Barclay referred to the millions of people whose routine surgeries are now falling by the wayside. Emergency treatments take significantly longer than planned due to the strike. Additionally, the healthcare system is still in the process of recovering from the coronavirus pandemic, so the strike is affecting patients.

Nurse and RCN general secretary Pat Cullen wrote in a private letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: “Please resolve this impasse. I have made it clear that opening negotiations and making meaningful concessions can avoid strikes.”

The union RCN is open to talks with the government but insists on higher demands.

Image: EPA

Wales avoids strike by contract

The collective strike is taking place at an unprecedented scale. Out of approximately 220 NHS trusts, 73 were out of service, up from 55 in January last year and 44 in December. A trust describes an organizational unit of the NHS and is responsible for a specific geographical area or medical specialty.

In Wales, an NHS strike was called off at short notice after the regional government upgraded its offer. Health in the UK is the responsibility of regional governments. For much of England, which does not have its own parliament, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s central government decides.

Meanwhile, the government wants to massively restrict the right to strike for many professional groups through a controversial law.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post had the government offering a 4.75 percent pay hike. not like that. We have corrected the record accordingly.