The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has announced that its members will stage nationwide strikes – the first in its 106-year history – on December 15 and 20, with action expected to last 12 hours on both days.
The unprecedented industrial action will severely disrupt care and is likely to be the first in a series of strikes over the winter and spring by NHS staff, including junior doctors and paramedics.
The union said ministers had not accepted the offer of formal talks since the result of the poll more than a fortnight ago and had therefore “chose to strike”.
RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said: “They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.
“Nurses are tired of being taken for granted, tired of low salaries and dangerous staffing levels, tired of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve.”
It came as Scottish postal workers, university staff and teachers went on strike on Thursday, while railway unions reaffirmed plans for an eight-day national strike despite a ‘positive’ meeting with the ministers.
Expected dates for the strikes are clustered around the week before the start of the Christmas holiday, when demand will be high for restaurants and retail as the office holiday season peaks and business activity picks up.
The first nurses’ strike on December 15 will fall during a week of rail strikes planned by the RMT union, December 13-14 and 16-17, and the second day of a 48-hour walkout by the Communication Workers Union ( CWU) to the Royal Mail, December 14-15.
Although unions said there were no plans for a general strike, several spoke of coordinating industrial action to maximize disruption and political impact. RMT leader Mick Lynch called for “a wave of action” on behalf of low-wage workers, a phrase echoed by TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, although she said the sync was not always necessarily the most effective strategy. .
After a meeting with Transport Secretary Mark Harper on Thursday, Lynch said the minister had “entered into a dialogue” and “got rid of belligerent nonsense” under recent predecessor Grant Shapps.
However, Lynch ruled out canceling the eight-day strike in December and January. He said, “If we call off the strikes, we’ll never get a settlement… My members won’t forgive me. I made a commitment – until we get something tangible, the action will continue.
Harper called the meeting at the Department of Transport “constructive”, adding: “There is a deal to be done, and I believe we will get there – I want to help the RMT and the employers reach an agreement and end to the conflict. for the benefit of the traveling public. »
Harper is due to meet the general secretary of the Aslef Train Drivers’ Union, Mick Whelan, next week after another 24-hour drivers’ strike on Saturday November 26 will halt services on lines across Britain.
Meanwhile, there were picket lines outside schools, universities and mail sorting centers as the latest wave of industrial action began on Thursday.
Up to 2.5 million students faced disruption in what has been billed as the biggest strike in UK higher education history.
About 70,000 members of the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU), including professors, librarians and researchers, began a 48-hour strike on Thursday, with another one-day strike scheduled for next Wednesday, in a dispute on salaries, pensions and contracts.
Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “If university vice-chancellors don’t get serious, our message is simple: this strike will only be the beginning.
University administrators, cleaners, security and catering staff from Unison are also taking industrial action over salaries at 19 universities.
In Scotland, schoolchildren stayed home as teachers across the country staged their first national pay strike in nearly 40 years after they dismissed the latest pay offer as an ‘insult’.
Only a few primary schools in Orkney and Shetland opened as normal on Thursday, as thousands of members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) took part in an all-day strike. Two other school strikes by other unions are planned for December.
Tens of thousands of members of the Communications Workers Union working for Royal Mail also walked out on Thursday, in the first of 10 days of strike action before Christmas. The strikes are expected to affect deliveries from the peak of the Black Friday shopping day this week, with the final action due on Christmas Eve.
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said from a London picket yesterday that Royal Mail was not paying overtime for overworked workers and accused them of a ‘psychological attack’. The CWU rejected an 18-month 9% pay deal, saying Royal Mail’s plans to change working conditions would make it a ‘market economy style’ employer.
The economic impact of the strikes remains uncertain, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), whose growth figures have previously estimated the hit from closures such as Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September.
“There is a lot of travel with activities taking place before or after the days when the strikes take place,” a spokesperson said. The ONS only recently resumed data collection on strikes after a hiatus during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the four months from June to September, almost three-quarters of a million days were lost due to industrial action.
Although they are on track to be the highest numbers for more than a decade, they are well below those of the peak years of strikes in the 1970s and 1980s. A total of 29 million days were lost to industrial action in 1979 – the year of the winter of discontent – and 27 million were lost during the year-long miners’ strike in 1984-5.