Thousands of British nurses stage first strikes on 15, 20 December

Southern England nurse Chukwudubem Ifeajuna loves his job but next month he will walk out for two days as part of the biggest strike action by British nurses which he says is essential for the welfare of staff and patients.

The industrial action on December 15 and Dec. 20 is unprecedented in the 106-year history of the British Nurses Association and comes as the NHS faces one of its toughest winters on record.

Ifeajuna has seen his team members leave to work in supermarkets, where there is less stress and better pay, while he has had to cut expenses.

“I have a few employees who are using food banks at the moment. I’ve had to cut back on things with the kids that I can’t afford to provide for because of the high cost of living. So it’s really, really hard on everyone, not just myself,” he told Reuters.

“We’re striking because we deserve better pay. We haven’t had a decent wage for over a decade now.”

Strike action is also affecting the UK’s rail, postal and education sectors as workers grapple with rising prices.

Patricia Marquis, director of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union in England, said the government must listen.

“It’s not something that nurses do all at once,” she told Reuters.

The RCN says experienced nurses like Ifeajuna are 20% worse off in real terms than they were in 2010 after a string of under-inflation pay awards, and is seeking a pay rise of 5% above the RPI (retail price index).

That would amount to a 19.2% salary increase compared to October’s inflation figures. The government says the RCN’s demands would cost £10 billion ($12.14 billion) a year and are unaffordable.

But the RCN’s watchdog said that without higher pay, staff would continue to leave the profession, increasing the pressure on those who remain and ultimately harming patient care.

Billy Palmer, of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, told Reuters that those considering leaving “often cite issues of not having enough staff to do a good job”, but their departures add to the staffing problem.

“It’s the most vicious cycle,” he said.

Ifeajuna also says he sometimes considered quitting.

“But every time I’ve had the opportunity, I’ve had to stop for a minute and say, ‘I can’t abandon my patients.’ I cannot let my colleagues suffer in peace,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *