Nurses across the NHS will strike ahead of Christmas, threatening further disruption to healthcare in much of the UK at the busiest time of year for hospitals already struggling to bring down record waiting lists. have been
The Royal College of Nursing announced on Friday that some of its members would stage a walkout in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on 15 and 20 December. The union’s general secretary, Pat Cullen, said ministers had refused to start formal talks over pay and patient protection and had effectively chosen “strike action” when they had the “power and means to stop it”.
Despite tentative signs of progress in resolving a long-running dispute at rail, union members will be at the vanguard of a wave of industrial action spreading into healthcare and many other parts of the public sector over the winter. industry.
Hopes of a solution for the railways rose on Thursday when new Transport Secretary Mark Harper held talks with RMT union general secretary Mick Lynch. Harper said the meeting had been “constructive”, while Lynch described the talks as “positive”.
After the meeting, Harper said: “A deal has to be done, and I’m confident we’ll get there,” adding that he wanted to “facilitate” an agreement between the railroad unions and the employers—more than his predecessor Grant. A change in behavior struck Shapps, who refused to meet with Lynch.
However, Lynch refused to call off strikes that had been announced by the RMT earlier in the week, including a series of 48-hour stoppages in December and January, and across Network Rail and 14 train operators over the festive period. It had overtime restrictions for its members.
Meanwhile, there was a massive walkout in the education sector on Thursday. Strikes affected almost every university in England as a long-standing dispute over pay and pensions escalated; And Scottish schools were closed after the country’s education union rejected a last-minute revised pay offer.
The RCN, which has more than 300,000 members, will give details next week on which NHS employers will be affected by the strike. It won a mandate to act on 176 employers out of 311 where ballots were out.
Its members may soon be joined by other unions representing NHS workers. Unison, which represents more than 400,000 healthcare workers across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, will close its ballot on Friday and announce the results next week.
The GMB ballot for ambulance workers in 11 NHS trusts will close at the end of the month; Unite is also voting for thousands of health workers; And unions representing junior doctors, midwives and physiotherapists are holding or planning to vote.
NHS leaders earlier this month conducted a stress-testing exercise – codenamed Arctic Willow – to ensure emergency care would continue safely during any strike action, but walkouts still took place at some scheduled operations and Will cancel appointments.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said health leaders would review the plans and await confirmation of the RCN’s intentions. At a minimum, urgent, emergency and critical care will continue during the strike, and the NHS will let patients know in advance of any changes to non-urgent care. Health leaders sympathize with their workers, he said, and are keen to see a negotiated solution to their concerns to avoid a “prolonged war of words”.
Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said he was “hugely grateful” for the nurses’ work, but the RCN’s demand for a pay award of 5 per cent above retail price inflation – the equivalent of a 19 per cent increase compared to the government offer – at most The 4 to 5 percent increase for nurses – was not affordable.
In contrast the Scottish government on Thursday increased its pay offer for NHS staff, with an average increase of 7.5 per cent and 11.3 per cent for the lowest paid.
Unison said it is putting the proposal to its members in Scotland with a recommendation to accept it.
Additional reporting by Bethan Staton and Lukanyo Mnyanda