Strike wave in hospitals, trains in United Kingdom

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is facing a new crisis on Thursday. The United Kingdom is indeed facing new strikes, affecting both hospitals, where thousands of medical specialists are off work for the first time in ten years, and stations, where train drivers are again on strike. The country, which is facing a severe cost of living crisis, has been hit by strikes in health, transport, education, postal sectors for months… Workers have been demanding hikes in the face of inflation, which is falling but remains the highest among G7 nations at 7.9% in June.

After the nurses, the paramedics, the “junior doctors”, who are equivalent to interns, it is now the turn of the most experienced doctors, the “consultants”, who stop working in English hospitals. They began the 48-hour strike at 7am (6am GMT) on Thursday. Hospital dentists have joined the movement. The public health service, the NHS, is weak. After years of austerity treatment and the COVID-19 pandemic, access to care is becoming increasingly complex. Children are waiting up to 18 months to have dental treatment requiring anaesthesia, including tooth extractions, according to a BBC investigation published on Wednesday. As of last Tuesday, a five-day strike by “junior doctors” led to the postponement of over 100,000 appointments. The NHS has warned experts there could be even more disruption.

pay cut

In total, more than 600,000 medical appointments have been affected over the eight months of the strike, according to NHS Chief Medical Officer Stephen Powis. “It becomes more and more difficult to get services back on track after each strike,” he lamented. The government has proposed a 6% hike this year for medical specialists. But according to the BMA (British Medical Association) union, the offer is actually in line with pay cuts. Health Minister Steve Barclay said in a statement: “My door is always open to discuss non-pay issues, but this proposal is final and therefore I urge the BMA to end our strike immediately.”

On 13 July, Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged the civil service unions to end the strike and accept the government’s final pay rise offer of 5% to 7%, depending on the region. In such a situation, the teachers have announced to suspend their agitation after the offer of 6.5%. Train drivers of the RMT union, which has intensified strikes since last year, are on strike as soon as the school holidays begin.

Rail services warned that “there will be little or no service across the vast majority of the network” on Thursday, then 22 July and 29 July. The Eslef union started the strike on 17 July, which should end on Saturday. “These attacks are part of a campaign that began more than a year ago,” RMT general secretary Mick Lynch told Sky News. They are disrupting trains “from the south-west of England to Scotland”, he said. “We are really in trouble. People should get decent wages,” he said.

(with AFP)


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