United Kingdom: Agreement could end health strikes – 03/16/2023 – World

United Kingdom: Agreement could end health strikes – 03/16/2023 – World

The UK government and the country’s health unions reached an agreement this Thursday (16) with the potential to end strikes on the NHS – the British public health system -, which have lasted for months.

Premier Rishi Sunak’s proposal establishes, among other things, that nurses will receive a 5% salary increase next year.

Although most unions in the area recommend accepting the proposal, described as fair and reasonable, the strikes will only be ended after a period of consultation between all members.

The deal would cover about one million nurses, paramedics, midwives and other healthcare workers for two years through April 2024. Junior doctors, who are in a separate dispute, do not qualify.

“This offer is good for NHS staff, it’s good for the taxpayer and, most importantly, it’s good news for the patients whose care will no longer be disrupted by the strike action,” said Sunak.

The crisis pressing down on the prime minister represents the worst wave of work stoppages since the 1980s in the UK. Mainly between June and August last year and since the beginning of December, workers from different categories of the public service crossed their arms demanding wage readjustments above the inflation ceiling.

The British health service has been particularly affected by strikes, especially due to a staffing crisis and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. In February, tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics staged the biggest strike in the 75-year history of the NHS. Members of the Armed Forces were even trained to, for example, drive ambulances, in an attempt to mitigate the consequences of the interruption of services.

Even if the new agreement does not cover all the demands of the category, three of the main unions in the area –Unison, GMB and the Royal College of Nursing (RCN)– understood that it represents progress. Unions have generally sought increases more in line with inflation, which is now close to 10%.

Unite, for its part, said it would stop the strikes during consultation between members, but was unable to recommend the offer. The union did not give a specific reason for the decision.

It is not yet known how much the agreement will cost the British coffers – both Sunak and the Minister of Health, Steve Barclay, refused to detail the amounts. The GMB syndicate said the offer made an extra £2.5 billion (£2.2bn) available. Financing details for the offering remain murky.

“It is unclear whether the Treasury will ultimately provide the necessary funding to cover the cost of this deal,” senior economist Ben Zaranko of the British Institute for Fiscal Studies told Reuters news agency. “If that were to happen, it would be a significant change to cost containment plans.”

The crisis in the British economy reflects both the political instability of the government, which had a sequence of three Prime Ministers in less than four months, and the consequences of the energy crisis, the War in Ukraine and Brexit. Inflation reached 11.1% last October, the highest rate in 41 years.

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