New ambulance strikes announced as UK unions announce will resume walking
A wave of industrial action among healthcare workers fighting for higher living wages will escalate into the new year when Unison, the largest ambulance workers union, announces two new days of strikes in January. The Royal College of Nursing is also ready to announce its closure.
The announcement by Unison, the largest ambulance union, following a day of action on Wednesday also involving unions GMB and Unite resulted in delays in responding to some 999 calls.
Data from NHS England provides a snapshot of its impact and reveals that 2,774 ambulance workers were absent from the strike. This action resulted in the cancellation of at least 559 surgeries and 4,292 outpatient appointments, although both data sets are incomplete.
Unison said the new strikes, on January 11 and 23, will last 24 hours each – double the length of the action taken this week – and will involve all ambulance workers. , not only 999 response teams appeared on Wednesday, when it began to fight the government. However, it added that many employees of potentially exempt services act under emergency insurance plans.
The union’s general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: “Only through negotiation will this dispute be over. No medical staff wants to go on strike again in the new year.”
The RCN has made it clear that they will announce new strikes if the prime minister does not respond to the ultimatum issued by their secretary general, Pat Cullen, on Tuesday. After the second of two 12-hour strikes this month, Cullen told Rishi Sunak there are “two days for us to meet and start turning this around” or RCN will announce the date and location points for the next strikes on Friday.
Sunak has committed to introduce “new tough law” to enforce minimum service levels during industrial action, and health department officials were asked to explore a range of options in this area ahead of this week’s strike.
NHS leaders fear a second strike will be larger and more damaging than the December shutdown.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, warned in a letter to health service managers this month that further nurses’ strikes expected in the new year could will be “for a longer period of time on each occasion and will cover more organizations”. in the UK”.
He added that it is also possible that agreements on so-called breaches – areas protected from attack action – will be “further altered and reduced”.
Allies of health minister Steve Barclay confirmed that the government’s position had not changed following a strike by ambulance workers on Wednesday, with ministers refusing to negotiate over pay recommendations in this year.
Barclay said on Twitter: “We have an independent pay review body – the body the unions have lobbied for – and we will continue to delay that process to ensure balanced decisions. between employee needs and the broader economy.
In a sign of an olive branch from the government, officials close to Barclay on Thursday signaled that the minister is keen to ensure that next year’s pay review process, which has already begun, is not blocked. unnecessarily prolonged.
The NHS’s independent payment review body sent its recommendations in June this year, and they were accepted by the government in July. More than 1 million NHS staff have received a £1,400 pay rise, effective from April 2022.
However, unions say the pay review body will not resolve the deadlock. Laurence Turner, GMB’s head of research and policy, noted that the health department has tasked the agency with the next year and budgeted for a 2.1% pay rise.
“This is about a third of the inflation forecast for 2023. Speeding up the process will not change the underlying issue in dispute, which is that NHS payments have been repeatedly too low,” he said. ” he said.
Tensions continue to mount amid new evidence of the perilous state of the NHS. New data released on Thursday showed one in four emergency patients in the UK waited more than an hour to be handed over after arriving in hospital last week due to increased demand and a lack of beds.
Health services are also under pressure from a spike in flu cases, with the number of patients hospitalized for the disease increasing by two-thirds in a week.