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Crisis of the public health system | Nearly 100,000 British nurses on strike



(Londres) C’est un mouvement inédit qui traduit l’ampleur du mécontentement au Royaume-Uni : les infirmières britanniques se sont mises en grève jeudi pour réclamer des augmentations face à l’envolée des prix et à la crise du système de santé public.

« Il est temps de payer un salaire juste au personnel soignant », « Les pénuries de personnel coûtent des vies », affirmaient jeudi des pancartes de grévistes rassemblés devant l’hôpital Saint-Thomas à Londres.

« Je suis dans le métier depuis des années. […] I myself have seen a decline. I would like something to be done,” Marsha Kerr, an intensive care nurse, told AFP.

Up to 100,000 nurses are taking part in the strike on Thursday, the first in the 106-year history of their union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and then on December 20. The movement concerns England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It comes at a time of rare social tension as Christmas approaches. From railway workers to border police, many professional categories will be on strike at the end of the year, upsetting the plans of some Britons.

The Conservative government, struggling in the polls, is implacable, promising to legislate to reduce the power of the unions and refusing to get involved in the negotiations.

But the movement of carers constitutes a challenge, because the sympathy of the opinion is great for the employees of the free public health system, long national pride, but washed out by ten years of austerity then by the pandemic.

19% increase

The nurses are asking for a salary increase of just over 19% to make up for years of scarcity which have resulted, for the RCN, in a drop in their purchasing power of 20% since 2010 and the arrival of the Conservatives in power. A request deemed “unaffordable” by the government.

“We are with you”, headlines the left-wing daily on Thursday The Daily Mirrorechoing a majority British population in favor of the walkout of nurses according to the polls.

Health Secretary and former nurse Maria Caulfield told Sky News on Thursday that some 70,000 medical appointments and operations were going to be lost in England due to the strike.

“I woke up this morning heartbroken as a nurse,” RCN general secretary Pat Cullen told the PA news agency.


Pat Cullen, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing

[C’est] tragic to have had to take the profession on strike to have our voices heard.

Pat Cullen, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing

In a UK in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, with double-digit inflation, nurses’ representatives say their members are skipping meals, struggling to feed and clothe their families and ending up leaving the workplace en masse. NHS.

“Mark of Shame”

The strikers also complain of an increasingly heavy workload due in particular to the shortage of caregivers.

“I did a lot of recruiting. […] What I notice over the years is that it is more difficult to recruit nurses. Whereas before, 15 people applied for a position, today I sometimes have to publish an advertisement several times before finding someone,” Ian Henderson, an ophthalmology nurse, told AFP.

During the weekly question time in parliament on Wednesday, Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer called the strike a “mark of shame”, calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to negotiate for it to be called off. which would allow “the whole country to breathe”.

To which Mr Sunak replied that the Conservative government was following the recommendations of the independent body in its proposals for increases, calling the strikes a “nightmare before Christmas” blamed on Labor because of its links with the unions.

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