LONDON – Tens of thousands nurse and ambulance staff left their jobs at English on Monday (6/2/2023), in what the unions called the biggest strike in the history of the country’s public health system.
The strike is the latest in a wave of strikes that have disrupted Britons’ lives for months, as workers — especially in the public sector — demanded wage increases to offset double-digit inflation.
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As AP reports, teachers, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have also quit their jobs in recent months to demand higher wages.
Teachers, health workers and many others say their wages have fallen markedly over the past decade, and a cost-of-living crisis sparked by sharp increases in food and energy prices has left many struggling to pay their bills.
Victoria Busk, an aspiring nurse at a trauma center in Birmingham, central England, said hospitals were understaffed and nurses were “running non-stop 24/7.”
“We need people who want to get into” this profession, he said. “The only way to get it is to raise wages and make sure it’s something people want to do,” Busk continued.
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The UK’s annual inflation rate was 10.5% in December, the highest in 41 years. The Conservative government argues that giving public sector staff pay increases of 10% or more would push inflation even higher.
The strikes are adding to the pressure on the state-funded National Health Service, which was already staggering under demand from a winter virus, staff shortages and deposits piling up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The nurses’ union says emergency care and cancer treatment will continue for the 48 hours out, but thousands of appointments and procedures will likely be postponed.
The ambulance service said it would respond to the most urgent calls during the all-day strike. But Business Secretary Grant Shapps said the strike could put lives at risk, leaving people with a “zip code draw when having a heart attack or stroke.”
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