Strike planned by RCN Union
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union has announced its intention to strike in February, marking the largest walkout in the history of the union. The decision comes as a result of ongoing pay talks with the government, which have yet to see any significant progress. Union bosses have warned that unless talks with the government progress soon, the strikes in February will involve twice as many workers as the strikes planned for this week.
The RCN has been in talks with the government over pay for some time, but so far, no agreement has been reached. The union initially demanded a pay rise of 19%, though it has indicated that it may accept 10%. However, the government is instead considering a one-off payment.
Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the RCN, has blamed the prime minister for his “baffling” approach to the negotiations. She has stated that the public is behind the nurses in their pay dispute with the government and that the nurse shortage is costing lives. She has also warned that if the government continues to refuse to negotiate, nurses may quit the health service en masse.
Blame on Government
The government, however, has insisted that nurses have been offered a “fair” pay deal and that it has accepted the recommendations of the independent pay review body “in full.” Transport Secretary Mark Harper has stated that it is important to set the context of the economy for the independent body and that they also received evidence from trade unions before coming to a decision. He has denied that the government set the parameters for pay increases, adding that they have made some assumptions but will look at what the independent pay body says.
In response to the strikes, the government is pushing for new anti-strike laws that would require minimum levels of service on walkout days. However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to “do the grown-up thing, get in the room and negotiate.”
The strikes are set to take place on the 6th of February, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Robert Francis inquiry. This inquiry, which focused on Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, uncovered the neglect of hundreds of patients at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2009. Mr. Francis has warned that the NHS crisis is “Mid Staffs playing out on a national level, if not worse.”
The Department of Health and Social Care has shown no sign of a change in approach, stating that more than one million NHS workers have received a minimum £1,400 pay rise this year. This is on top of a 3% pay increase last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.
The threat of strikes from the RCN union comes before walkouts on Wednesday and Thursday, when nursing staff from more than 70 NHS trusts are set to strike. This includes 55 trusts in England that were not involved in the first wave of action in December. If RCN members strike in February, they will join nurses in Wales who are already expected to take action. There are no planned walkouts in Northern Ireland, where there is no executive in place at Stormont, or Scotland, where negotiations with the Holyrood government are ongoing.
The RCN strike is just one of many strikes happening across the UK this winter, as hundreds of thousands of workers from various sectors, including rail, mail, civil servants, and bus drivers, go on strike over pay and conditions. Unions are fighting to keep salaries in line with soaring inflation. There is a wave of further teaching, ambulance, and civil service strikes planned for the coming months, with no end in sight to the current wave of industrial action.
Impact of COVID-19
The strikes planned by the RCN union, and the potential for even more widespread strikes in February, highlight the ongoing strikes by nurses and other healthcare workers are not only a result of pay disputes, but also a growing frustration with the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses and other healthcare workers have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, putting their own health and lives at risk to care for patients. They have been stretched to their limits, working long hours and dealing with the emotional toll of caring for critically ill patients.
In addition to the pay disputes, nurses and other healthcare workers are also calling for better working conditions and more resources to deal with the pandemic. They are demanding proper PPE, COVID-19 testing, and better mental health support for those who have been impacted by the pandemic.
The strikes and protests by nurses and other healthcare workers are not just about pay and working conditions, they are also a call for the government to take the pandemic more seriously and to provide better support for those on the frontlines. The government must take immediate action to address the concerns of nurses and other healthcare workers, if they want to avoid further strikes and disruptions in the healthcare system.
Furthermore, the strikes also highlights the importance of nurses and healthcare workers in the society and the need of government to ensure that these essential workers have the necessary resources to do their jobs safely and effectively. The government should not only provide fair pay and benefits to these essential workers but also invest in their education and training to improve the quality of care in the health system.
In conclusion, the strikes by the Royal College of Nursing union and other healthcare workers, serves as a reminder of the sacrifices that these essential workers make every day and their vital role in the society. It is the responsibility of the government to listen to their concerns and provide necessary support to ensure that they can continue to provide safe and effective care to the public during the ongoing pandemic and beyond.
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