For the first time in history, nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are on strike. The nurses demand a substantial wage increase of nineteen percent, but the government does not want to go into that.
They also complain about the high workload and working conditions.
Urgent interventions and interventions in life-threatening situations will continue, as the law on the functioning of the trade unions prescribes. This means that patients who need chemotherapy or kidney dialysis will be helped. The emergency and maternity departments also continue to work.
Scottish nurses are not on strike. This is because Scotland’s national health service is independent of the UK. But the strike will be felt in the rest of the country, especially for pre-booked procedures such as hernia treatments or hip operations.
The government does not want to grant the nineteen percent wage increase that the nurses are demanding. After a last-ditch effort to salvage negotiations failed last Monday, the Royal College of Nursing, the nurses’ union, is turning to a tool it has never used in its more than 100-year history: the national strike.
However, a pay rise is not the only demand of the nurses. “We are underpaid and undervalued,” you hear in their circles. A nurse from Birmingham says she and her colleagues have appreciated the applause during the coronavirus pandemic, but that “applause doesn’t pay the bills”, and that appreciation for their profession has faded.
In recent years, thousands of nurses from Europe who work in the UK health service have returned to their countries. As a result, the shortage of nurses and nurses, which ran into the tens of thousands before Brexit, has increased. On top of that comes the pressure caused by the long patient waiting lists.
Later this month, the nurses will go on strike several more times. And they are not the only ones. The railway workers also went on strike yesterday and the day before yesterday. They do that again tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and off and on until the second week of January. Ambulance workers, road workers, bus drivers, mail carriers, border police and baggage handlers in the airports will soon also be on strike.