In the United Kingdom, the exhaustion and anger of health workers

First walkout in thirty years for English and Welsh paramedics this Wednesday, December 21, historic strike by English nurses the day before, Scottish nurses ready to strike in turn at the start of 2023, not to mention junior doctors, still consulted for work stoppages after celebrations…

Exhausted by the pandemic and years of underinvestment in public hospitals, British healthcare workers are demanding substantial pay rises and are ready for a harsh and protracted social conflict. Faced with this unprecedented mobilization of employees who are usually not very assertive, the conservative government of Rishi Sunak continues to turn a deaf ear.

Tuesday 20 December, London Bridge, south side of the Thames. At the foot of St Thomas’ Hospital, one of the largest health establishments in London, a hundred nurses and nurses, members of the main trade union of the profession, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), hold a picket very lively. This is the first time that the RCN has called for a strike in 106 years of existence. Strangers stop to engage in discussion. In solidarity, double-decker buses and taxis honk as they pass.

“An incredible lack of respect”

“I love my job, but it’s getting harder and harder. I worked during the pandemic, I was assigned to a Covid department, in intensive care, but it was exhausting”says Jack, 30, a senior nurse for a year at St Thomas – most strikers refuse to give their surnames. “During the confinements, the members of the government celebrated, they showed an incredible lack of respect towards us. And now they tell us they can’t raise us? »chokes the young man, alluding to “Partygate”, the scandal of parties organized in Downing Street during the period of restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The RCN union is calling for a 19% wage increase to compensate for inflation at more than 10 % and a decade of wage stagnation. The government does not want to hear about it and takes refuge behind the conclusions of the Pay Review Body, an advisory body which advised an increase of around 4% for health workers in the public hospital (the National Health Service – NHS) in last July.

“We can’t take it anymore. It’s not just the pay, it’s also the way we are treated or the expectations in front of the hospitals” – Eddie Brand, paramedic

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