The big news recently has of course been the strikes across the public sector, with an estimated two million people taking part in the one day strike on 30th November, including more than 100,000 nurses (according to the Nursing Times).
The strike, which was organised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and supported by 29 different trade unions including Unite, Unison and the GMB, is in protest against significant upcoming changes to pensions for workers in the public sector. These changes include rising contributions, matching retirement age to state pension age, and the scrapping of final salary schemes.
Non-urgent operations cancelled
While Prime Minister David Cameron called the day of action, “a damp squib,” between 6,000 - 7,000 non-urgent operations were cancelled across the UK as a result. Tens of thousands of NHS appointments were also cancelled, and several ambulance services reported that they were struggling to cope.
NHS nurses’ involvement in the strikes comes just a day after Chancellor George Osborne announced that payrises for nurses and other public sector workers will be capped at 1% for two years, beginning in April 2013.
The strike affected hospitals across the UK, and ran for 24 hours from midnight on the 30th November. Nurses on night shifts at some NHS trusts were warned that they could forfeit their pay for the entire shift if they joined the strike when it began at midnight.
Pensions dispute continues
Industrial action looks set to continue unless an agreement can be reached between the government and the unions over public sector pensions. The British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives have all threatened that they may hold a ballot on strike action if progress is not made in the dispute.
November’s strike action was the first walkout by hospital staff for 20 years. Some ambulance staff participated in the strike, but remained available for emergency calls, while patients with urgent care needs were prioritised for the duration. Many other NHS health workers were also involved in the strike including radiologists, chiropodists, administration and support staff