UK nurses have warned that there will not be a quick end to the strikes, as workers in health care prepare for another walkout starting tonight.
The Royal College of Nursing members will be on strike from Sunday 8pm until Monday midnight. In some areas, ambulance staff will also strike on Monday and/or Tuesday. This is the sixth month in a row that the National Health Service has been involved in industrial action.
The strike has become more controversial since members of a major union in the health care industry, the GMB , voted on Friday to accept, the latest pay offer from the government. This may increase pressure on the RCN after the May 2 meeting with the NHS Staff Council (an umbrella labor group) to reach a settlement with the Prime Minister’s government.
In an Interview with Sky News RCN General Secertary Pat Cullen stated that her members had “loudly and clearly” expressed that the current offer is not good enough, and that it does nothing to solve the NHS staffing crisis.
Pat Cullen, Sky News, Sunday: “The current pay system does not work. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have retention and recruitment issues.” Cullen added that if Secretary of State and government continue to ignore nurses’ voices, they will “re-ballot our members by mid-may, or close to mid-June, which means that we could face strikes right up to the Christmas period.”
The walkout in England has affected emergency departments, cancer wards, and intensive care units for the first. Julian Hartley said that the nurses’ strike was “the most worrying so far.” He said this in an email statement. Some hospitals are struggling to find staff for specialists areas, including children’s care.
Steve Barclay wrote in an email statement on Saturday that it was “hugely disappointing” some unions were escalating their strike actions this week, including the RCN. This is despite the fact that only a third (33%) of RCN members rejected the fair and reasonable pay offer from the government, which all other unions had accepted.
Cullen stated that there were national exemptions in place to ensure patients receive critical care. She said that nurses would never put their patients at risk or add to the existing risks in the system.
GMB members voted 56%-44% on Friday to accept the offer of the government. This has caused a split among NHS staff, including nurses, dietitians, and ambulance attendants, across the country. Unite members rejected the same package on Friday by a similar narrow margin (52%-48%). They are now participating in weekend walkouts.
Mark Harper, Transport Secretary, said on Sky: “I urge them to reconsider and accept what I believe is a fair and reasonable offer that reflects the value we place on the hardworking NHS employees.”
GMB’s vote could be crucial for the government to resolve the dispute. It is one of the largest unions, and it could tip the scales in favor of acceptance.
Union leaders have been fighting industrial disputes in multiple sectors, as they demand that workers’ wages keep up with inflation which is still around 10%. Walkouts are continuing in the health care, education and train services industries. Sunak’s Tory Party, which trails Keir’s Labour Party in a double-digit gap ahead of the general election next year, appears to be hurt by the unrest.