Today and tomorrow (18th and 19th Jan) nurses are striking across the country. Nurses in 25% more NHS employers are taking strike action this month compared to the strikes seen last month.
The ongoing dispute is over pay. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the union who represents nurses, claims salaries for experienced nurses today are 20% lower in real terms due to successive below-inflation pay awards since 2010.
The nurses who work in the GP surgeries in Downham Market (Hollies, Bridge Street, and Howdale) are not taking part in the strike. GP Surgeries are independent businesses who are ‘commissioned’ to provide NHS services, and so nurses at GP surgeries are not employed by the NHS and are not part of this pay dispute.
Pat Cullen, General Secretary of RCN said “Staff shortages and low pay make patient care unsafe – the sooner ministers come to the negotiating table, the sooner this can be resolved. I will not dig in, if they don’t dig in.”
The nurses at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn are not on strike this week either. The ballot to take action did not reach the turnout threshold, meaning less than half of eligible nurses entered a vote. A spokesperson for the hospital said patients are to use the QE hospital services as normal.
Ambulance service unions across the country are due to strike next week (23rd) and have been on strike last week (11th). East of England ambulance service did not vote in favour of strike action so have not taken part.
In response to the recent strikes, the government is looking to put in place new laws to require “minimum service levels” in sectors such as the health service. If passed, the laws would mean workplaces could require certain employees to work during a strike or face dismissal.
The RCN says the proposed laws around strikes are undemocratic, but also points out they have long suggested there should be year-round minimum staffing levels to keep patients safe. The group Liberty, who campaign for human rights, says the new laws “completely undermine the purpose of striking, and will make it much harder for workers to exercise their basic rights.”