LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s conservative government, facing long-running strikes in transport, health and soon education to demand pay rises, is uniting public sector unions on Monday, a gesture of openness after a lack of commitment so far.
“The first thing we need to do is start the proper discussions, that’s why Monday is so important and why we want to have those discussions,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the BBC on Sunday. Trade union demands.
After several strikes over the summer, autumn, Christmas and last week, the urgency of the crisis is palpable as railway workers resolutely continue their social movement.
This week we will also know the outcome of teachers’ union votes on future public sector strikes.
After already walking off the job in December, nurses will go on strike for two days in January, the first time in more than a hundred years that health conditions are particularly dangerous.
The public health system, the NHS, has been underfunded for years and stretched thin after the Covid-19 pandemic, with patients waiting hours for ambulances or being treated in hospital emergency rooms.
Doctors and hospital managers are calling for immediate action, with the government holding an emergency meeting on Saturday, after which the prime minister called for a “bold and serious” approach.
The system “isn’t on its knees, it’s on the ground,” Labor opposition leader Keir Starmer told Sky News on Sunday, pledging a ten-year plan if he becomes prime minister. The minister is the latest to be scheduled within two years following the next assembly elections.
“Touch of Hope”
In the immediate future, nurses are demanding a substantial salary increase for the current year, which has so far been deemed by management as “unaffordable” to public funds.
Rishi Sunak reiterated on Sunday, “It is great to have a discussion on responsible and affordable wages for the country.”
On Monday, there should be discussions on salary hikes in the public service for the coming financial year (2023-2024).
The announcement of the discussions raises a “touch of hope” about the government’s desire to end the conflict, said Sunday Pat Cullen, general secretary of the main nurses’ union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
When asked by the BBC, he warned that the government’s refusal to discuss wages this year “will not prevent a planned strike in ten days”.
The discussions come as the government has announced it is preparing legislation to introduce a minimum service in the public sector to reduce the impact of strikes, angering unions.
Many of them, such as the powerful transport union RMT, plan to meet this week under the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which brings together around forty unions from all sectors, leaving some fearful of the prospect of a general strike. It was the first time since 1926.
© 2023 AFP
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