In the face of inflation, strikes continue in the UK in hospitals and in the rail

'Junior doctors' hold signs outside St Thomas' Hospital in London on July 13, 2023.

For months, the United Kingdom has been affected by strikes in the sectors of health, transport, education, post… This Thursday, July 20, the country is facing new strikes, affecting both hospitals, where thousands of medical specialists stop working for the first time in ten years, and stations, where train drivers are on strike again. Employees are asking for increases, in the face of inflation which is falling but remains the highest of the G7 countries, at 7.9% in June.

After the nurses, paramedics, “junior doctors” which are the equivalent of the interns, it is the turn of the “advisers”, the most experienced doctors, to cease work in British hospitals. They began a 48-hour strike at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. in Paris) on Thursday. Hospital dentists have joined the movement.

The public health service (NHS) is stretched thin. After years of austerity treatment and the Covid-19 pandemic, access to care is increasingly complicated. Children have to wait up to 18 months for dental treatment requiring anesthesia, including tooth extractions, according to a BBC survey published on Wednesday. The five-day strike, until Tuesday July 18, of “junior doctors” resulted in the postponement of more than 100,000 appointments. That of specialists could cause even more disruption, the NHS has warned.

Read also: In England, doctors begin a new strike of unprecedented duration

“People need to have decent wages”

In eight months of strikes, more than 600,000 medical appointments have been affected in total, 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% increase for this year for medical specialists. But according to the British Medical Association (BMA) union, this proposal corresponds to a reduction in wages in real terms.

“My door is always open to discuss non-pay issues, but this proposal is final and I therefore call on the BMA to end its strikes immediately”said Health Minister Steve Barclay in a statement. On July 13, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urged public service unions to end the strikes and accept the government’s ultimate pay raise offer of 5% to 7% depending on the sector. The teachers have thus announced the suspension of their movement following an offer of 6.5%.

Train drivers from the RMT union, who have stepped up strikes over the past year, are also on strike as the school holidays begin. Rail services warned that on Thursday, then July 22 and July 29 there would be “little or no service across a large part of the network”. The Aslef union began a strike on July 17, which should end on Saturday.

“These strikes are part of a campaign that began more than a year ago”, underlined Mick Lynch, the general secretary of the RMT, on Sky News. They disrupt the trains “from the South West of England to Scotland”he said. “We are really in trouble. People need to have decent wages”he added.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers In the United Kingdom, a year of strikes by teachers, railway workers or doctors and still no way out of the crisis in sight

The World with AFP


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