UK hits ambulance services, hospitals and trains ahead of Christmas

CNN Business

Britain braces for further strike disruption ahead of the Christmas period as paramedics and nurses join train operators and postal workers in the worst wave of walkouts the country has seen in at least a decade.

More than 20,000 ambulance workers, including paramedics and call handlers, are set to strike on December 21 in a pay dispute, according to union statements GMB, Unison and Unite.

The strike will involve just under half of all ambulance drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, although unions have said they will cover life-threatening emergencies during walkouts. More than 10,000 ambulance workers represented by the GMB union will strike again on December 28.

paramedics, like other members of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), “are on their knees”, according to GMB National Secretary Rachel Harrison.

“Something has to change or the service as we know it will crumble. GMB calls on the government to avoid a winter of NHS strikes by negotiating pay these workers deserve,” she said in a statement.

Strikes have swept across the UK this year as workers grapple with a cost of living crisis and stagnant wages. Consumer prices rose 11.1% in the year to October, a 41-year high. Once inflation is taken into account, average wages fell by the steepest decline on record at the start of this year, and continued to fall through the June-September period.

According to the Times, one million British workers are set to strike in December and January. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows Britain has already lost at least 741,000 strike days this year, putting it on course for its worst year of industrial disputes for at least a decade.

Sign of the desperation of many workers, the strikes now extend to sectors previously virtually spared industrial action.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is planning its first-ever strike action for December 15-20 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, after saying the UK government had refused formal pay negotiations. The strike in Scotland was called off after the Scottish government reopened wage negotiations.

The union said critical care will be strike-exempt, but non-critical services will have lower staffing levels.

“Nurses are tired of being taken for granted, tired of low pay and dangerous staffing levels, tired of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve,” said the union’s general secretary, Pat Cullen, in a statement.

The MRC is campaigning for a pay rise 5% above inflation to offset increases it says have left experienced nurses earning 20% ​​less than in 2010 after adjusting for inflation.

According to the RCN, 25,000 nurses left the profession last year and there are 47,000 unfilled nursing vacancies in England’s NHS alone.

The British government has rebuffed requests from paramedics and nurses, and he talks about deploying the military to fill the gaps in services. “Economic circumstances mean that union demands are not affordable,” Health and Social Care Minister Steve Barclay said in a statement.

More than a million NHS workers will get a pay rise of at least £1,400 ($1,705) this year, according to Barclay, with those on the lowest pay receiving a raise of up to 9, 3%. “Our priority is to ensure that emergency services continue to operate for those who need them and to limit disruption,” he added.

Likewise hospitals, postal services and public transport, which have already experienced widespread disruption this year, will have a harder time at Christmas.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which represents 115,000 postal workers, has notified Royal Mail of further walkouts on December 9, 11, 14 and 15. The union is also planning strikes on December 23 and 24. The disruption is likely to jeopardize Christmas deliveries and will weigh on small businesses in particular during a crucial trading period.

The strike action planned by RMT, which represents more than 83,000 transport workers, promises to disrupt rail services on December 13, 14, 16 and 17, and for four days from Christmas Eve.


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