- Aqeela Begum
Are the strikes good or bad
Despite the saying “New year new me”, this year seems to be rather reluctant to change from its predecessor; so the ongoing battle between unions and employers continues. The concluding month of such a busy year has tirelessly provided evidence of things not getting better anytime soon as inflation continues to cause chaos, last month the inflation rate was 9.2% according to the ONS. Several months have passed yet the end to these disputes seem distant as ever, as the public continue to suffer the consequences.
It is not a secret that inflation may be the root of it, more and more workers are tired of wages falling behind the inflation rate. But is this really the best way to go about it? Causing hassle not only for employers but to those who also struggle to provide food for their families? To pay the towering bills and heating?
Are strikes good or bad?
Last month saw the first nationwide strike by members of The Royal College Of Nursing (RCN) in NHS history. The RCN had revealed that it would go on strike on the 15th and 20th of December 2022. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has also revealed several hospital trusts across England will be striking on 6/7th of February 2023. The strikes will feature the biggest walkouts so far, with over a third of NHS trusts in England being affected. RCN general secretary Pat Cullen shared that “it is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking” and that “rather than negotiating, Rishi Sunak has chosen strike action again”. The RCN had requested for 5% above the rate of inflation, which means 14%.
Thousands of physiotherapists have become the latest NHS members to strike over pay disputes, their first strike took place on the 26th of January last Thursday. The health secretary Steve Barclay called the recent action “regrettable” and that he was willing to continue negotiations about what is “fair and affordable for the 2023/2024 pay process”.
However, Claire Sullivan, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CPS) director of employment relations said that “the government’s strategy during this dispute has been simply inexplicable and is entirely to blame for these strikes.” The CPS director of employment relations found the public’s support for the actions that members are taking “gratifying” and that the government must “come to the table with something tangible”.
Physiotherapists are the third largest group in the NHS after nurses and doctors.
Teachers on strike
The Health sector is not the only one experiencing industrial action, the National Education Union (NEU) had balloted for strikes which resulted in a landslide outcome, with a majority of more than 90% voting for the strike action in a turnout of 53.27% in England. The vote had surpassed the restrictive threshold set by the government for strikes. The NEU plans for seven days of strike action across February and March, though any individual school will be affected on four days. The first strike will be on the 1st of February, with over 23,000 schools affected in England and Wales. Teacher members in sixth form colleges will also strike on these days, according to the NEU website.
NEU members want an above inflation-rise of 12%. Dr Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general Secretaries of the NEU said that “Teachers have lost 23% in real-terms since 2010 and support staff 27% over the same period” and “the average 5% pay rise for teachers this year is some 7% behind inflation. In the midst of a cost of living crisis, this is an unsustainable situation.”
These strikes mean that pupils are now told to stay at home, which may cause disruption to parents at work. Many parents are now faced with the difficulties of taking care of their children on what would usually be a school day. Some parents may need to take the day off from work, which could impact pay and cause problems. However, as an employee, you have the right to take off time with an emergency involving a dependent, which involves children. Despite this, employers are not obliged to pay you for your time off which is not ideal in a cost of living crisis.
Overall, despite the disruption that follows the trail of industrial action, employees have the right to strike if they feel that they are being treated unfairly or are not appreciated. But does this automatically denote strikes as positive? No. I think it’s unfair that the public has to bear the bitter brunt of employers not willing to negotiate, however, the bigger the effect of action, the more willing and forced the employers will feel to comply. Strikes are not good for others, but they are rooted from good reasons, it deals with an issue which must be overcome for the better of people’s wellbeing.