Nurses to stage walkout next month as Britain braces for Christmas strike chaos

Thousands of nurses will stage a straight strike over pay as Britain prepares for a series of strikes ahead of Christmas.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced on Thursday that its members would stage their first national strike on December 15 and 20. The protest action will take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The move comes as members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union announced a series of 48-hour strikes next month and in January by its members at Network Rail and 14 rail companies – and a ban on overtime over Christmas and at New Year, likely to cause travel chaos during the holiday season.

The MRC rejected the “final” offer and is continuing a series of strikes in the coming weeks, including Black Friday and December 24, Christmas Eve.

The nursing group said it was calling for strikes after the UK government refused its offer of formal and detailed negotiations as an alternative to industrial action.

Pickets were posted outside schools, universities and Royal Mail centers on Thursday as tens of thousands of workers went on strike to escalate disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.

Union leaders said the walkouts had strong support amid a bitter war of words in the industrial unrest sweeping the country.

The general secretary of the Communication Workers Union has accused the Royal Mail of subjecting its workers to a “psychological attack”.

About 70,000 members of the University and College Union were scheduled to strike Thursday and Friday, and again next Wednesday, in a dispute over wages, pensions and contracts.

It will be the biggest strike of its kind, affecting around 2.5 million students, with the union warning of escalating action next year if the row is not resolved.

The RCN announced this month that nurses from the majority of NHS employers across the UK had voted to strike over pay and patient safety.

He said despite a pay rise of around £1,400 ($1,700) given this summer, experienced nurses were now 20% worse off in real terms due to successive below-inflation rewards since 2010 .

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said: “Nurses are tired of being taken for granted, tired of low pay and unsafe staff levels, tired of not being able to give our patients the care we they deserve.”

The RCN said the economic case for fair pay for nurses was clear when billions of pounds were spent on agency staff to fill workforce gaps.

He added that over the past year 25,000 UK nurses have left the Nursing and Midwifery Council register, with poor pay contributing to staff shortages across the UK, a shortage which he said was affecting patient safety.

There were 47,000 unfilled registered nursing positions in England’s NHS alone, the MRC said.

The College says polls have shown huge public support for nurses receiving a bigger pay rise, along with the right to take protest action.

Other health unions are voting for workers on the prospect of protest action, while ambulance staff in Scotland are due to leave on Monday.

A ballot among hundreds of thousands of Unison members closes on Friday and among NHS members of Unite next week.

Midwives and physiotherapists also vote on strikes, while a junior doctors’ ballot opens in the new year.

Healthcare unions have been warning for months that workers are quitting in large numbers over low pay and low morale, leading to staff shortages in hospitals and other parts of the NHS.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said he was “hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of the nurses”, but regretted the decision to take industrial action.

However, he said the RCN’s current demands were “unaffordable” and would cost the government an additional £10billion.

“Our priority is ensuring patient safety,” he said. “The NHS has proven plans in place to minimize disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.”

Updated: November 25, 2022, 00:46

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