For the first time in history, nurses in the UK have voted to go on strike, in order to put pressure on the powers that be to provide them with fairer wages – something many of us thought would be a given following their phenomenal efforts throughout the pandemic. The Fair Pay for Nursing campaign is calling for a 17.6% pay rise, which is a 5% above inflation, and said wages 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". Over a quarter of NHS trusts are now running food banks for staff.
The strikes will begin at the end of the year and run through until May 2023, according to the British Medical Journal, and the government have said if demands are met it could cost them £9 billion (as the rise in wages would also need to cover everyone on the 'Agenda for Change' contract, which includes all NHS staff apart from doctors, dentists, and very senior managers).
But while there's been plenty of chatter around the will-they-won't-they element of the nurses strike, some are still wondering why the idea to strike was tabled in the first place – and Labour MP Zarah Sultana just perfectly summarised why in a new speech.
"Nurses, like all workers, aren't going on strike because it's easy, in fact it's one of the most difficult decisions. They're going on strike because they haven't seen a real terms pay rise since 2010," Sultana began, before sharing some shocking statistics about just how bad things have really gotten.
"Nurses' pay is down nearly £5,000 in real terms. They're going on strike because one in three of them cannot afford to heat their homes or feed their families," she continued. "They're going on strike because clapping doesn't pay the f*cking bills!"
Sultana went on to say that the "NHS is one of our proudest institutions... and that is something we have to strike for, and can never take for granted". She added, "The backbone of that is our nurses, our porters, our doctors, our cleaners, every single person who makes up the NHS and they have been overworked and undervalued for far too long."
The Royal College of Nursing has also said the plans to strike were due to concerns over patients' care and safety, which suffers when staff are burnt out. The RCN believes nurses at the majority of state-run National Health Services, along with many of the country’s biggest hospitals, will strike over the coming weeks.
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