UK health workers stage biggest health strike in history
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The biggest health workers' strike in the 75-year history of the NHS is taking place in the UK.
The government is calling on workers to call off the strikes. Unite is calling on the prime minister to negotiate salary.
Medical workers went on strike on Monday, Feb. 6, as tens of thousands of nurses and emergency workers quit amid a escalating wage dispute, putting additional strain on the state's National Health Service (NHS). .
Nurses and ambulance workers have been on strike separately since the end of last year, but today's action is joint.
Nurses will also strike on Tuesday, ambulance workers promise not to work on Friday, and the physiotherapists — on Thursday, making it likely the most devastating week in the history of the NHS, its medical director, Stephen Powys, said.
Medical workers are demanding higher wages reflecting the UK's worst inflation in four decades, while the government says it can't afford it and will push prices even higher and in turn higher interest rates and fees on mortgage loans.
Some 500,000 workers, many of them public sector workers, have been on strike since last summer, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to resolve disputes and regulate public services such as railways and schools.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union wrote to Sunak over the weekend asking him to “quickly end the nurses' strike” by making “significant” salary proposals.
The National Health Service, a point of pride for most Britons, is under tremendous pressure, with millions of patients waiting for surgery and thousands of patients every month unable to get timely emergency care.
RCN reports a decade of low wages pay has led tens of thousands of nurses to leave the — 25,000 in the last year alone. Severe staffing shortages are already critically impacting patient care.
RCN initially demanded a 5% increase in wages above inflation and has since said it could go “halfway” with the government, but both the parties failed to reach an agreement despite weeks of negotiations.
Meanwhile, thousands of ambulance workers, represented by GMB and Unite, are set to strike on Monday over their own wage dispute. Both unions have announced that the strike will last for several days.
In Wales, nurses and some ambulance workers have canceled strikes scheduled for Monday as they consider Welsh government wage proposals.
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