Nurses And Rail Workers To Strike Again As Winter Of Discontent Rumbles On

Royal Mail staff also vote to continue industrial action amid bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions.
The Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen joining members on the picket line outside the Royal United Hospital in Bath in February.
The Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen joining members on the picket line outside the Royal United Hospital in Bath in February.
Ben Birchall via PA Wire/PA Images

Britain’s winter of discontent looks set to roll into spring after trade unions representing nurses and rail workers announced more strikes, with bitter disputes over pay, jobs and conditions no closer to a resolution.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), has announced a significant escalation in strike action at more than 120 NHS employers in England in the increasingly bitter dispute over pay and staffing.

The next strike will run continuously for 48 hours from 6am on March 1.

Meanwhile, members of the Rail, Martine and Transport union (RMT) will walk out on March 16, 18 and 20, and April 1, at 14 train operators.

The union’s members at Network Rail will strike on March 16 and will then launch a ban on overtime.

Also on Tuesday, Royal Mail workers have voted overwhelmingly to continue with a campaign of industrial action.

Britain is experiencing its largest wave of strike action in decades, involving hundreds of thousands of workers from a range of professions and piling pressure on prime minister Rishi Sunak to settle the disputes, many of which involve the public sector.

The RCN, which accused the UK government of refusing to engage in negotiations, also said it will increase financial support for its members who lose wages by taking industrial action.

Previous action took place only during the day shift, for 12 hours each time.

For the first time, the RCN will involve nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempted.

A strike last week saw the RCN agree 5,000 exemptions at local level through committees of NHS hospitals and RCN staff, but this process will be stopped for the March dates.

The RCN said it was continuing discussions with the NHS at national level as part of its commitment to “life and limb” care.

It will reduce services to an “absolute minimum” and ask hospitals to rely on members of other unions and other clinical professions instead.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “These strikes will not just run for longer and involve more people but will leave no area of the NHS unaffected. Patients and nurses alike did not want this to happen.”

Health secretary Steve Barclay said: “Failure to provide cover during strike action for key services like cancer care is a significant escalation from the Royal College of Nursing that will risk patient safety.”

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, said: “This is the most worrying escalation of strikes yet. With more than 140,000 appointments already postponed as a result of the walkouts, this is a step no one wants to take.”

In the dispute on the railways, the RMT accused employers of refusing to put any new offers on the table.

The union, which represents 40,000 workers across Network Rail and 14 train operators, rejected offers from employers last week.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: “Rail employers are not being given a fresh mandate by the government to offer our members a new deal on pay, conditions and job security.

“Therefore, our members will now take sustained and targeted industrial action over the next few months.”

Elsewhere, a fresh ballot of members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) showed almost 96% were in favour of more strikes unless the deadlock is broken.

CWU general secretary Dave Ward said it was a “stunning” result which showed that Royal Mail workers were determined to continue campaigning against plans to introduce changes in the company.

Royal Mail workers have staged a series of strikes in recent months, including in the busy run up to Christmas.

No new strikes have been announced but the union’s postal executive will meet next week to discuss the next move.


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