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UK nurses stage new walkout as strike wave intensifies

January 18th, 2023 | Tags:
Nurses hold banners and placards as they picket during a strike over pay, outside the University College Hospital, in London, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. Photo: AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
AP

LONDON, UK — Thousands of nurses in Britain walked out Wednesday in a new protest over pay, with no end in sight to a wave of strikes that has piled pressure on the U.K.’s overburdened public health system.

Two 12-hour strikes on Wednesday and Thursday affect about a quarter of hospitals and clinics in England. Emergency care and cancer treatment will continue, but thousands of appointments and procedures are likely to be postponed.

Nurses, ambulance crews, train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors, bus drivers and postal workers have all walked off their jobs in recent months to demand higher pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.

Inflation in the U.K. hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October, driven by sharply rising energy and food costs, before easing slightly to 10.5% in December.

The nurses’ union has been seeking a pay raise of 5% above inflation, though it has said it will accept a lower offer. The Conservative government argues that double-digit public sector pay increases will drive inflation even higher.

“Unaffordable pay hikes will mean cutting patient care and stoking the inflation that would make us all poorer,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote in the Independent newspaper.

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