US Reporter

Nurses will go on a Strike in England

Thousands of nurses from the United Kingdom will walk out in protest of the poor working conditions they have endured for several months.

Around 100,000 nurses from England, Northern Ireland, and Wales have organized a 2-day strike against their employers. According to the group, they have reached a breaking point. The low wages they are given cannot cope with the rising prices of commodities, not especially when inflation in the country is high. The strike will happen on December 15 and 20.

Many nurses are members of the Royal College of Nursing, the country’s biggest nursing union. The strike will be the first in its 106 years of existence. And this is mainly due to the dismal financial conditions that have impeded the daily lives of these professionals. It has been more than two years since the pandemic started. The lockdowns took a toll on many healthcare professionals. However, even with the sacrifices, they made to safeguard the lives of many, they are still underpaid.

“Government rejects option to avert nursing strikes by choosing not to enter formal pay negotiations. As a result, strikes in England, Northern Ireland and Wales will happen on 15 and 20 December,” the RCN said in a news release.

“Last night (12 December), RCN General Secretary & Chief Executive Pat Cullen met with Health Secretary Steve Barclay with hopes of beginning formal pay negotiations, which could have averted strike action. However, Mr. Barclay refused to discuss pay, and therefore strikes will go ahead as planned on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December,” it added.

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Nurses will not receive more pay

After the meeting, the RCN chief executive told staff that she did her best to negotiate with the UK Health Secretary regarding their benefits and pay raise. However, the government seemed unwilling to give the nurses what they were due. Before the meeting, Cullen expressed her willingness to work with the government to help nurses alleviate their working and pay conditions.

“I asked several times to discuss pay, and each time we returned to the same thing – that there was no extra money on the table and that they would not be discussing pay with me,” Cullen said.

“I needed to come out of this meeting with something serious to show nursing staff why they should not strike this week. Regrettably, they’re not getting an extra penny. Ministers had too little to say, and I had to speak at length about the unprecedented strength of feeling in the profession.”

“I expressed my deep disappointment at the belligerence that was shown – they closed their books and walked away.”

The campaign

The RCN urged nurses to go on strike in protest in the press release. They added that the strike should commence and would only be reverted if the RCN saw signs of participation from the government. For instance, the group paused strikes in Scotland after its government reached out to the nurses for negotiation. Unfortunately, in many areas, authorities kept themselves silent about the matter.

“Nursing is the largest safety-critical profession in health care, playing a vital role in patient care. Despite this, nursing remains understaffed and undervalued. After years of underinvestment, the government must act urgently to protect patient care by protecting the profession,” the RCN said.

“The Fair Pay for Nursing campaign is about: (1) recognizing that salaries of nursing professionals have consistently fallen below inflation – a fact which is being exacerbated by the cost of living crisis – and must now rise significantly to reflect that.

(2) valuing the training, qualifications, skills, responsibilities and experience demonstrated everyday by nursing staff.

(3) ensuring that nursing is seen as an attractive, rewarding profession to tackle the tens of thousands of unfilled nursing posts.

(4) the campaign aims to secure a pay increase that is 5% above inflation (measured by RPI).”

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‘Our nurses are not okay’

Lauran Ghazal, a nurse from New York, echoed the same sentiments in a published opinion earlier this year. She contends that more than 4 million nurses in the US relate to the situation faced by health professionals in the UK. The toll of inflation and the pandemic exacerbate their low income and bad working condition.

“I know this firsthand. I am a family nurse practitioner as well as a researcher. Unfortunately, over the past few months, as Omicron cases have spiked, my colleagues and I have been stretched to our limits,” she said.

“Inside the hospitals and clinics where I work, however, the reality is much different. For nurses, 2022 can often feel far grimmer than what we experienced at the start of the pandemic. We have vaccines and more PPE now, yes, but being on the front lines of waves of infections has carried an extreme physical and emotional burden that’s leading to immense burnout,” she added.

Ghazal said that conditions have improved for Covid, with many treatments now available for patients. However, nurses and other health workers still find themselves burnt out from work. And this is because of surges of patients in the hospitals.

“While my colleagues and I are doing everything we can to treat patients despite our own exhaustion, there are still patients filling waiting rooms who have not gotten vaccinated or taken preventive measures such as wearing masks to protect themselves and help curb the influx of new Covid-19 hospitalizations.”

“And while some of the public may choose to be “done” with the pandemic, or live as though it doesn’t exist, for health care workers like myself there has been no escape.”

Photo Credit: Sky News

Source: CNN

Opinions expressed by US Reporter contributors are their own.