Striking nurses demonstrate during a picket line outside University College Hospital in London on January 19, 2023 afp_tickers This content was published on Jan 20, 2023 – 10:17am Jan 20, 2023 – 10:17am (AFP)
The ailing British public health service could face the biggest strike in its history on February 6 after fresh strikes were announced on Friday by ambulance workers who will join nurses in demanding better conditions and salaries.
Amid a severe crisis due to rising cost of living, with inflation hitting 10.5% in December, the UK has seen an increase in strikes across many sectors for months.
After two days of historic strikes in December and two more in January, thousands of care workers are planning to strike again on February 6-7 in England.
An ambulance staff union, GMB, which includes paramedics and switchboard operators, announced on Wednesday that it would join the February 6 action. And this Friday, another union, Unite, reported that thousands of their ambulance workers will do the same in England and Wales, threatening the biggest strike since the public health system was founded in 1948.
The UK public health system (NHS) is in deep crisis after years of underfunding under successive Conservative governments.
Their skilled workers, who are under enormous pressure due to staff shortages and losing purchasing power because their salaries have been rising below the inflation rate for years, leave en masse an industry with tens of thousands of unfilled positions.
Rishi Sunak’s conservative government accuses the strikers of endangering patients and wants to introduce minimum services in some areas.
“Rather than act to protect the NHS and negotiate an end to the conflict, the government has shamefully chosen to demonize ambulance staff,” Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said in a statement.
“It’s not the unions that are breaching minimum service levels: it’s this Government’s disastrous management of the NHS that has pushed it to the limit,” he said.
Unite on Friday announced a total of ten new days of action by its rescue workers in different parts of the country between the end of January and the end of March.