LONDON – Nurses in Britain walked out again on Monday, with some critical services due to be hit for the first time.
The industrial action is the latest stoppage in an increasingly bitter dispute with the government over pay and conditions.
The 28-hour strike, which started at 8pm on Sunday, came after members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) earlier in April voted to reject a 5 per cent government pay increase offer.
The walkout is one of many across the private and public sectors over the past year, as workers have grappled with double-digit inflation.
All hospitals have been guaranteed a minimum level of cover for intensive care and trauma.
But the latest strike is the first time areas such as intensive care, chemotherapy and dialysis have been hit, although some exemptions have been agreed.
In previous walkouts, such services had been completely excluded from strike action.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen called on health minister Steve Barclay to “come back around the table and put a better offer on the table”.
“We need to pay nurses decently, and what we need to see now is the NHS (National Health Service) standing up and being very clear with the government that they need to address the nursing crisis that they've got right throughout the NHS,” she told Sky news.
“And until they do so, our nurses unfortunately will be left with no option but to continue with the action that they are taking,” she said.
Unions representing other healthcare workers, including Unison and GMB, have voted in favour of the government's pay offer. Trade union Unite and RCN have voted against.
Mr Barclay described the RCN's decision to go ahead with the walkout as “hugely disappointing” despite “the government's fair and reasonable offer on pay”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said big pay hikes are unaffordable and risk fuelling inflation.
Doctors have also staged strike action and are demanding a 35 per cent pay increase.
Their last stoppage earlier in April lasted four days, with doctors leaders arguing that Covid-19 pandemic backlogs coupled with staff shortages are massively increasing workloads, endangering patients.