London: Further strikes were announced by teachers and nurses in the UK, amid the continued cost-of-living crisis and lengthy disputes over pay.
If progress is not made in negotiations by the end of January, February will see the most widespread strike so far by National Health Service (NHS) nursing staff, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.
The planned strikes follow walkouts in December and January. “We are doing this in a desperate bid to get ministers to rescue the NHS. The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs — patient care is suffering like never before,” RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said.
Over the last year, the UK has seen record-high inflation, with the consumer prices index (CPI) rising by 10.7 per cent in November. However, wages have failed to keep up. Salaries for experienced nurses are 20 per cent lower in real terms than in 2010, due to successive below-inflation pay awards, the RCN noted.
Also, the National Education Union (NEU) announced that its members had voted in overwhelming numbers to take strike action in February and March to demand a fully funded, above-inflation pay rise.
A five per cent pay rise offered in July actually equates to a 7 per cent pay cut due to the soaring inflation, the NEU noted. There has also been a decline of more than 20 per cent in real term pay for teachers over the past decade and educators are leaving the profession in their droves, it added.
Since last summer, the UK has been in the grip of a wave of strikes. The government has locked horns with the trade unions, saying the pay rises that unions have demanded are unaffordable, and higher pay would not help fight inflation.