The strikes that have been happening across the nation due to the rising cost of living have prompted responses from the government. The nurses’ strike, which is also planned to be held on 6 and 7 February, has made the government consider a one-off payment to end the strikes.
The walkouts that are planned for early next month will be the biggest so far. The recent string of industrial action by nurses began in December 2022, as reported by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). What initiated the nurses’ strike is similar to strikes that have been done by other sectors – better pay to match inflation rates.
Nurses’ Strike Demands
The rising inflation in the UK is known to have caused increased costs in all sectors, yet pay rises are not aligned with inflation rates. This has led to many workers needing additional financial support as they are effectively spending more money on their regular costs. With inflation reported by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS) reaching 9.3% in November 2022, many are struggling to afford their basic needs.
Amongst experienced nurses, they have admitted that they are now worse off by 20% in real terms considering that they have not been receiving pay rises below inflation rates since 2010. Before they decided to strike, the RCN extended an offer for formal negotiations with the UK Government. However, even after expressing the injustice they have experienced, the offer was declined.
In a press release by the RCN, they highlighted how nurses have had enough of the low levels of pay and unsafe staffing levels. These conditions do not just cause issues for nurses, but also for patients as nurses are unable to give them the care they deserve.
With staff shortages being an existing issue, this may become direr without proper responses from the government to support nurses in the NHS.
One-Off Payment Possibility
In a response to the strikes, the UK Government has now expressed the possibility of a one-off payment to meet their demands. Rishi Sunak mentioned that the government is happy to have conversations on pay if it is deemed affordable. It seems that currently, the demand for rising pay for nurses to at least 19% is unaffordable, and what the government is willing to offer now is a one-off payment even though nurses say they could be willing to accept a 10% rise.
However, this one-off payment offer that was announced last week has not been accepted. Some view this offer as a lack of understanding and commitment from the government to address the issue at hand. Ultimately, nurses are demanding pay that will be adequate to support their lives and the rising costs – and one-off payments do not account for future fluctuations.
Furthermore, one-off payments may lead to a disparity among roles. Without a clear structure for the payments, there is no guarantee at this time that these payments will be equitable or fair. A salary increase may be the best option to support employees equally and increase job satisfaction which will help them get through the winter and the cost-of-living crisis.