It’s beginning to look a lot like a grim Holiday Season in the United Kingdom as over 20,000 emergency medical service (EMS) workers, including ambulance staff, paramedics, and service operators, are set to go on strike on December 21st if current issues regarding compensation remain unresolved.
According to labor groups GMB, Unison, and Unite, around half of the ambulance drivers in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales are set to walk out of their jobs. A second strike, this time involving 10,000 EMS workers who are part of GMB, is set for December 28th.
The unions have advised, however, that there will still be EMS teams available in the event of any serious emergencies on the said dates.
Nurses Up in Arms
Meanwhile, the country’s nurses, who have worked round the clock since the pandemic hit British shores, are also planning to take mass action.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that it was planning its first-ever general strike in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales on December 15th, and again on December 20th. The nurses’ union has, however, assured the public that those working in critical or intensive care would be exempted from the strike, but non-critical services will be somewhat hampered on the two aforementioned dates.
According to Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the RCN, the nursing sector has had enough of low wages and unreasonable staffing levels, as well as being unable to give patients the necessary level of care.
As of press time, UK nurses are clamoring for a pay raise that is at least 5% above inflation, as it has been noted that many experienced nurses earned 20% less due to surging inflation rates.
Interestingly, nurses in Scotland will not be joining on either of the said strike dates. Mass actions on their part were suspended as the Scottish government returned to the table to discuss a wage hike for the sector.
An Ongoing Labor Crisis
The announced strikes are the latest in the ongoing wave of workers’ walkouts in nearly a decade. Previously, the country’s rail operators and postal workers disrupted transportation and logistical services when they took to the streets in recent weeks.
Throughout this year, British workers in different industries took to the streets to clamor for better wages at a time when the cost of living continues to soar and the prices of consumer goods are up by 11.1% – the highest increase seen in over four decades.
Surging inflation has meant a significant decrease in the buying power of the average working wage, and wages declined significantly throughout much of the third quarter.