London:Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are taking part in a historic strike on Thursday, demanding a pay raise amid increasing costs of living in the United Kingdom, media reported.
According to The Guardian, it is the first ever strike in the 106-year history of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), the UK’s biggest nursing union, with as many as 100,000 health workers expected to take part in it in an effort to get a pay increase of 5% above inflation.
The strikes are taking place in different parts of the UK, except for Scotland where healthcare unions decided to call off their strike and accept the pay raise deal proposed by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, the Evening Standard newspaper reported earlier in the week.
Thousands of nurses are also expected to strike on December 20, which could exacerbate the problem of staff shortage the UK National Health Service (NHS) has been facing for months. Protests could spark major disruptions in the work of UK hospitals, with a significant number of non-urgent services and operations already postponed. The government has officially requested the military to back up heath services during strikes, according to reports.
In November, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he had “enormous respect” for nurses and other NHS workers, but called their demands for a wage increase “obviously unaffordable” under current circumstances.
The UK has seen a series of strikes by civil servants over the past months as people express their dissatisfaction with the worsening economic situation caused by rising energy prices and soaring inflation in the country. Employees of railroad companies, post offices, airports, and lawyers, among others, are taking part in the strikes.
Social dissatisfaction has grown as the UK entered a serious economic crisis earlier this year. Annual inflation in the UK reached 11.1% in October before slowing down to 10.7% in November. According to the Bank of England, the UK economy has entered a recession expected to last until the second half of 2024.