Tin-eared Liz Truss is obsessed with tax cuts, so why shouldn’t NHS nurses go on strike? | Polly Toyn Bee

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yesend all strikes, delay the nurses vote, Leave this year’s pivotal TUC annual conference in mourning for the Queen. You may note that this respect for the late monarch of workers facing gigantic pay cuts was not matched by the London Stock Exchange, which has not missed a nanosecond of stock trading, even among those companies benefiting from the high energy prices. Imagine the outrage against lese majesty by the Mail and other newspapers mickey lynch done the same

Before long, strikes will resume among increasingly unlikely “militants”; Daily Express journalists, criminal lawyers Y postal workers it will be conspicuous. So will the collectors, firefighters, Felixstowe dockworkers and a growing storm of other workers who can’t absorb huge pay cuts on top of the lower wage growth in the G7.

So far, public opinion is backing them, as pollster James Frayne of Public First said recently. he told the politician. “There is a lot of public sympathy for the strikers. Most people think, well, if I was facing a 10 or 20 percent pay cut, and I was in a job where I could strike…I would,” he said. Public sector workers’ wages have been severely affected by freezes and cuts, lagging far behind the private sector. People know that the unions speak for them. If the minority that belongs to the unions is successful, it will raise everyone’s wages, in an economy that currently has more than a million vacancies.

It is impossible to know how far sympathy for the strikes will spread if they are seriously disruptive, but Liz Truss’s reckless threats of even harsher measures. anti-strike lawsby Jacob Rees Mogg labor rights bonfire or people like MP Tobias Ellwood calling rail workers “putin’s friend” will probably only generate more support.

Next are the nurses. The Royal College of Nursing in England, Wales and Scotland it has never gone on strike, but any remnants of Florence Nightingale’s sense of duty have been wiped out by current conditions within the NHS. Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the RCN, has been touring hospitals talking to her members ahead of the now-delayed vote. It is a sign of the times that none of the hospitals contacted by RCN allowed me to accompany Cullen and listen to the nurses.

Banning the press from examining frontline services is now the norm: the NHS is too intimidated by government pressure and the turmoil of four health secretaries in 18 months. This was never the case under Labour. I have been denied permission to visit a workplace on numerous occasions. For a decade I have been requesting to observe HMRC minimum wage inspectors at work but have always been denied.

Cullen says that the nurses will vote to strike, not only because of pay, but against the intolerable and terrifying working conditions that 8% fewer applicants they are training to become nurses this year. “Many give up when they see what’s coming,” she told me. That’s a growing disaster for the NHS when there’s over 46,000 vacancies, a number that is rising again and worse in mental health and community nursing. Nursing students are registering £50,000 debts after their scholarships were court in 2017. Those nurses work all hours in unpaid placements, including nights and weekends. Overworked registered nurses increasingly rely on them to wash, bathe and feed patients and don’t have enough time to give them proper instruction.

“What they see are 13-hour shifts, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., often staying late without pay because the understaffed wards have only three registered nurses and two health care assistants caring for 30 elderly patients. very sick,” Cullen said. She talks to exhausted nurses, fearful of the dangers in her impossible workload. “The new secretary of state should take the time to put himself in his shoes for a week.”

In real terms, says the RCN, nurses have lost 10% in pay since 2010. Around 60% are stuck in the lowest band 5 for registered nurses, earning between £25,000 and £28,000. Many more have stayed there to save the government money, when they may have previously moved up the pay scale more quickly. Many London nurses cannot afford to hire locally. “Some travel two hours each way, at a cost of £500 a month. I challenge any politician to live like this, paying rent and child care, never owning a car or a house,” Cullen said. Vacancies for deceased EU nurses are filled by contract nurses from countries in the World Health Organization Red List, like Nepal, which cannot do without them. “But when they get here, the foreign nurses cannot survive on their salary, even living three to a room, let alone send money home for the children. They beg me to help them return home.”

Nurses concerned about the strike have asked Cullen how they can leave their patients. She tells them how the successful five-day strike she led in 2019 in Northern Ireland earned the nurses a promotion: They took care of all the emergency work in A&E and the wards, but stopped planned surgery, which added to waiting lists that were already growing. A strike by nurses, and probably by doctors and other health workers, would mean the NHS would slide even further. The service is already overwhelmed, with 6.8 million people waiting for operations. Although recent legislation allowing P&O style strikebreakers by agency workers, in Northern Ireland nursing agencies refused. Cullen says that in England, Wales and Scotland, nursing agencies would also refuse to provide strikebreakers this time.

Last week he had a chance encounter with four nurses at a train station. “They had reluctantly left the NHS because they couldn’t survive. They were on their way to work at private boarding schools that were clamoring for nurses, paying double, with free accommodation. They were surprised that they had twice as much time to work after 4:30 pm.” There are many more easier nursing jobs.

Truss needs to make a strategic decision before the winter strikes turn into a crisis. Will he enjoy a fight with workers resisting unprecedented cuts after the last decade of wage stagnation? She mistakenly thinks the blame will fall on Labor and its support for trade union rights. It would be much wiser to do the same u-turn that she did with energy bills. If the government can afford to borrow £150bn, compensating even the rich while wasting a fortune on tax breaks for the rich, it can afford to strike fair pay deals with public workers. If she wants a Thatcherite showdown, Tin-Eared Lizzie will find herself on the wrong side of public sympathy. Two thirds of the voters support a nurses strike.

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