(Bloomberg) -- Cardiologists, surgeons and other senior doctors in England began voting on strike action over pay, piling pressure on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to resolve a series of damaging disputes in the National Health Service.
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The pay of consultants has decreased by 35% in real terms since 2009, the British Medical Association said Monday in an emailed statement. Until the weekend it had “remained hopeful that we would secure a pay offer that went some way toward making up for the decline” but said that ministers had failed to deliver. As a result, it will ballot consultants through June 27, recommending that members vote to walk out.
There are around 50,000 senior consultants in England.
The possibility of fresh industrial action threatens to undermine Sunak’s promise to shorten waiting lists for the National Health Service, adding to existing walkouts by nurses and junior doctors. Highlighting the strains across the UK public sector, two teaching unions also opened ballots on Monday seeking fresh permission to hold strikes.
After rejecting a 5% pay offer that was accepted by other NHS unions, the Royal College of Nursing is now pushing again for a double-digit pay rise to keep pace with inflation and stem an exodus from the profession, RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen told the Sunday Times.
After the RCN’s current six-month strike mandate expired earlier this month, the union plans to ballot members for a fresh mandate from next week to June 23. The government also remains in dispute over pay with junior doctors, who staged a four-day walkout in April that let to almost 200,000 appointments being canceled.
Sunak’s promise on NHS waiting lists is one of five key pledges against which he’s asked voters to judge him. In an effort to reduce strains on the struggling health service even further, the Department for Health and Social Care on Monday announced plans to open six new community diagnostic centers to deliver 500,000 additional checks, tests and scans.
The government is also in dispute with teachers, who last month rejected a pay offer for a 4.3% rise this year and a one-time, £1,000 ($1,230) payment for the 2022-23 tax year.
The National Education Union, which says pay for experienced teachers has fallen by one fifth in real terms since 2010, is holding a vote that closes on July 28 for a fresh strike mandate to replace the current one that expires on July 13. A second teaching union, NASUWT, said on Monday that its ballot for teachers at state schools will run June 5 to July 10, and another for sixth-form colleges will open Monday and close on June 12.
--With assistance from Ali Asad Zulfiqar.
(Updates with teaching union ballots starting in fourth paragraph.)
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