(On January 8, three days after this article was originally published, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak came out in favor of meeting healthcare workers’ pay demands to end the NHS strike. Despite Sunak’s announcement, Health workers will maintain the strike (moment).
Saying goodbye to 2022, it is clear that 2023 is going to be even darker. The rate of inflation (in the UK), although slightly lower, remains above 10%, and falling purchasing power forces more and more workers to fight to gain the basics: shelter, food and warmth.
The lack of any significant political opposition has meant that unions have led the front line of the fight against real poverty, and we have seen a significant increase in the number of strikes. December alone averaged about one day for university workers, postal workers, firefighters, security workers, bus drivers, rail workers and UK Border Force personnel to go on strike. There haven’t been as many strikes since the so-called Winter of Discontent of 1978–79, although the number of union members today is roughly half (6.4 million) that of 1979 (13.2 million), and the political influence of unions has declined in decades. From.
There are currently an estimated 130,000 open job vacancies in the NHS
However, it has been the strike by nurses and ambulance workers that has attracted the most media attention. The walkouts came in protest against the government’s implementation of a 4.5% pay rise for National Health Service (NHS) staff for 2022–23, which is well below the rate of inflation and follows nearly a decade of pay freezes. The Royal College of Nursing is asking the government to restore wages to 2010 levels and ambulance workers are demanding a pay rise in line with the current rate of inflation. While pay is the primary reason for strikes, unions and their members have highlighted that the stakes are higher: low pay levels are directly linked to the staffing crisis in the NHS – with an estimated 130,000 job vacancies currently exposed – and The strikes are part of a wider struggle to prevent the system from collapsing.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) organized strike days on 15 and 20 December. They were the first in its 106-year history, and they are now planning new attacks for January 18 and 19. For their part, paramedics and ambulance workers represented by the unions Unison, Unite and GMB have so far held a strike on 21 December, another on 11 January and more action planned for 23 January.
Let us recall what has led to this unusual NHS staff strike situation. Salaries have declined more in the public sector than in the private sector and the biggest decline has occurred in the last two years. Between January 2021 and September 2022, average purchasing power declined by 1.5% in the private sector, but fell by 7.7% in the public sector. According to a recent London Economics report, nurses’ wages have fallen more than any other sector: “Between 2010-11 and 2022-23, nurses’ wages in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are expected to fall by 5%. And there is a decrease in levels above level 6. At least 20% in actual. In other words, in 2022-23 an experienced nurse is being paid the same for five days of work as she was for four days of work in 2010-11.
Purchasing power to decline by 1.5% in the private sector between January 2021 and September 2022, but fell by 7.7% in the public sector
She concludes: “Looking ahead, the high level of inflation is projected to cost top 5 level nurses in England in 2023-24 and 2024-25 (ie around 21% per annum) to achieve the same real A cumulative 45% pay increase will be required.Profits in 2010-11.
It is well known that on a nurse’s current salary (starting salary is just £27,055), workers have had to give up food, look for another job or use food banks to survive and support their families .
As the pay of NHS staff has been cut, their working environment is becoming increasingly difficult. The reality of Tory’s disdain for the NHS is clear to anyone unfortunate enough to find themselves in the ER. Waiting times are at an all-time high: In November, 45% of people had to wait more than four hours to be seen and 7.21 million people are waiting for treatment. And things go from bad to worse. Ambulance response times are also alarming and teams are unable to answer nearly one in four calls made to 999 as many were stuck outside ER doors waiting to drop off patients. As if this were not enough, more cancer screenings are being missed than ever before, primary care is in full crisis and private companies are increasingly being used to outsource services that should be carried out by the NHS . It takes will and determination to run the NHS in such a disastrous way as the Conservatives have done over the past decade, and the result is a service that is on the verge of total collapse.
The government’s refusal to negotiate with the NHS strikers was predictable. To a large extent, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has taken pains to avoid answering questions about the strikes. And when it has responded, it has repeated the same rhetoric about the need to stick to the recommendations set out by the NHS pay review body (NHSPRB, NHS Expenditure Review Commission). Let’s remember that the government is under no obligation to follow these wage recommendations and that this so-called “independent body” is no such thing: it consists of a coterie of conservative, as well as pro-business, bureaucrats.
Of course, we’ve seen NHS staff vilified by Conservative MPs for calling a strike; Just as striking teachers don’t care about railway workers and border staff who allegedly wish to inflict chaos on children, or passengers, so Health Secretary Stephen Barclay tells us that striking NHS staff have “done things to the detriment of patients”. A conscious decision has been taken”.
NHS staff try to limit harm to patients: nurses continue to provide urgent care, and ambulance teams continue to respond to urgent calls (they fall under categories 1 and 2). But any damage caused by the two-day strike has been dwarfed by the daily suffering and deaths caused by the Tory sabotage of the NHS. For example, in October, according to the Federation of Ambulance Chief Executives, approximately 44,000 patients were at some risk as a result of late arrivals, and of these, approximately 5,000 suffered serious harm to their health (including death in some cases). cases).
This week, Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “What we are seeing now in relation to these longer waiting times is associated with an increase in death rates, and we believe that between 300 and 500 People are dying every week as a result of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care.
Despite attempts to blame NHS staff, there is much solidarity and support for the attacks
This suffering is evident to the citizens. They are those who cannot make an appointment with a general practitioner or have to wait more than ten hours to receive care in the ER. Despite attempts to blame NHS staff, there is much sympathy and support for the attacks. Most people can clearly see that NHS workers are doing their best under dire circumstances. So a recent YouGov poll found that 66% of citizens support the nurses’ strike, 45% “strongly” support it, and 63% support ambulance crews.
Unfortunately, this support is not shared by Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer. In a recent interview, when asked if he would pay nurses more, he replied: “I think 19% more than the government can pay.” Starmer has repeatedly declined to say whether he supports calls for better NHS pay. The only difference in his vision compared to Sunak’s is tactical. Even if we take his word for it, which is never fair, and thought he would sit down and talk to the unions, he would surely agree to a 5% pay cut currently being offered by the government. Will be offering a marginal increase. In other words, a proposal that will neither significantly improve the lives of NHS staff nor arrest the decline of the NHS.
There will undoubtedly be more strikes this year than in 2022. Nurses and ambulance crews have already announced more walkouts. Even doctors-in-training who, in addition to paying tens of thousands of pounds towards their studies, have seen their salaries drop over a decade. They work long hours, often unpaid overtime and, like nurses, in an environment that increasingly resembles a war zone; The proletarianization of doctors has given rise to a new generation that is increasingly political and anti-Tory.
While we must fully support and support the strikers’ cause, strikes alone will not save the NHS. Strikes in the NHS and the increase in union action in general are both defensive action, a reaction against the increase in attacks on the working class. They may help ease the situation and allow for a more politically aware workforce, but unfortunately they do not mean the working class is in a stronger position. For this they need a party which can give voice to their struggle potential. This goal has never been more urgent.
This article was originally published on weekly worker,
translation of Enrique Garcia For without permission,
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