UK: Nurses Plan More Strikes, Gov't Rejects Proposed Pay Increase

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members are set to stage a second strike on Dec. 20, after almost 10K members struck on Dec. 15 in demand of wage increases. Nurses will continue to provide support for critical and emergency departments

UK: Nurses Plan More Strikes, Gov't Rejects Proposed Pay Increase
Image credit: The Guardian

Facts

  • Royal College of Nursing (RCN) members are set to stage a second strike on Dec. 20, after almost 10K members struck on Dec. 15 in demand of wage increases. Nurses will continue to provide support for critical and emergency departments — such as chemotherapy and neonatal care — but plan to scale back on non-critical services in the case of further strike action.
  • The RCN is calling for a 19% wage increase for its members, as well as action from the government to more effectively and rapidly fill record-high vacancies in the NHS.
  • A strike on Tuesday would see over 70 NHS trusts affected, while ambulance drivers are planning to strike the following day. The RCN says it plans to hold more strikes in January if the government does not reopen salary negotiations within 48 hours of Tuesday's strike.
  • Conservative MP Oliver Dowden has stated that the government is "resolute" on its current offer of a 4.3% wage rise — suggested by the Independent NHS Pay Review Body — but have signaled they are "open to engagement with the unions." Other Tory MPs have voiced support for resuming negotiations, as the nation faces a series of labor disputes in the public sector.
  • 1.2K soldiers are being deployed to fill roles in industries affected by strike action over Christmas, including as ambulance drivers. However, union leader Pat Cullen reportedly remains hopeful that the dispute can be "wrapped up" before the festive holiday.
  • The strike action, the first in the 106-year history of the RCN, comes as inflation in the UK stood at 10.7% last month, exacerbating already steep increases to the cost-of-living in Britain.

Sources: BBC News, CNN, Guardian, Financial Times, Sky News, and Al Jazeera.

Narratives

  • Left narrative, as provided by Social Review. Not only have nurses and frontline workers borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, they now face a government trying to nickel-and-dime them out of a necessary and well-deserved pay increase, all while dealing with record-high inflation and a buckling healthcare system. Public sector wages have stagnated profoundly under Conservative governance and it's time for the government to truly show their appreciation for healthcare workers by compensating them fairly.
  • Right narrative, as provided by Telegraph. Unions must face the fact that every day they stay on the picket line puts the lives of countless Britons at risk. The government is scrambling to find solutions to the economic crisis sparked by COVID-19 and inflation, as well as the market destabilization induced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine — the unions are simply not playing fair by ignoring the reality of current economic circumstances. The independent wage-setting body has made their recommendation, and the government is well within their rights to stick to it.