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Fiona Kyle
December 19, 2022

Healthcare workers' strikes - what's the latest?

From postal workers to train drivers, the news headlines are full of workers striking just now. We thought we'd take the opportunity to have a look at the healthcare workers who are striking and what, if any, progress has been made so far.


The nurses' strike, led by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), has taken a lot of the headlines. The first day of the initial two days of strikes took place on Thursday 15 December and was the largest in its history. Across England about 10,000 staff were absent which led to almost 16,000 appointments, procedures and surgeries having to be rescheduled. Another day of action will take place on Tuesday 20 December.

If the pay dispute is not resolved, the RCN is threatening more severe strikes in January.

Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, said: “The government should get this wrapped up by Christmas. January’s strikes, if they are forced to go ahead, will see more hospitals and more nurses taking part than at present – 2023 needs to be a fresh start for all, not more of the same.”

Ambulance workers

On Wednesday 21 December members of the three main ambulance unions, Unison, GMB and Unite, are going on strike. The strike will affect non-life threatening calls and will involve paramedics as well as control room staff and support workers. There is a second day of industrial action planned for 28 December for GMB union members.

Unison has joined the RCN in threatening further strikes in the new year if an agreement is not reached.

Unison's head of health, Sara Gorton, urged Health secretary Steve Barclay to "do the right" thing both for NHS workers and patients and "host genuine talks and put a better pay offer on the table".

She added: "Ministers should take their heads out of the sand, stop pretending they can't boost wages and stop ignoring a worsening staffing crisis."

The unions representing NHS workers have asked for above-inflation pay rises for staff. The governments in England and Wales have given an average rise of 4.75%, with a guaranteed minimum of £1,400. Steve Barclay has described the demands as "unaffordable".

Speaking on the BBC, cabinet minister Oliver Dowden said there was no plans to offer a pay increase. He said: "We will be resolute to this, because it would be irresponsible to allow public sector pay and inflation to get out of control and we owe a wider duty to the public to make sure we keep our public finances under control."

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