There’s a strike today by public servants over attacks on their pensions. Chancellor George Osborne and the Con-Dem coalition government is confrontational to the unions over the strikes and blame the strikers – and everyone and everything else except themselves – for damaging the UK economy.
- Conservative election poster 2010
A few recent news articles about the UK’s Conservative and Liberal-Democrat (Conservative) coalition government – the ConDem’s – brutal attack on the National Health Service.
- • Disruption across UK as many services come to virtual halt
- • Airports, schools, rail services and hospitals affected
- • Reform of public sector pensions is at heart of dispute
The UK is experiencing the worst disruption to services in decades as more than 2 million public sector workers stage a nationwide strike, closing schools and bringing councils and hospitals to a virtual standstill.
The strike by more than 30 unions over cuts to public sector pensions started at midnight, leading to the closure of most state schools; cancellation of refuse collections; rail service and tunnel closures; the postponement of thousands of non-emergency hospital operations; and possible delays at airports and ferry terminals.
The TUC said it was the biggest stoppage in more than 30 years and was comparable to the last mass strike by 1.5 million workers in 1979. Hundreds of marches and rallies are due to take place in cities and towns across the country.
Pickets began to form before dawn at many hospitals, Whitehall departments, ports and colleges.
The strikes have been called over government plans to overhaul pensions for all public sector workers, by cutting employer contributions, increasing personal contributions and, it emerged on Tuesday, increasing the state retirement age to 67 in 2026, eight years earlier than originally planned.
Union leaders were further enraged after George Osborne announced that as well as a public sector pay freeze for most until 2013, public sector workers’ pay rises would be capped at 1% for the two years after that.
The NHS is confident emergency and urgent care will be mainly unaffected by the strikes, managers believe.
The walkout will be the biggest in the health service for more than 20 years, with the government expecting a fifth of the workforce to take action.
But contingency measures have been put in place to protect services such as A&E units, cancer treatment and end-of-life care, NHS Employers said.
Routine appointments and non-emergency operations are likely to be hit though.
Health workers who are members of Unison and Unite will take part in the strikes on Wednesday.
Between them they have more than 500,000 health staff, including nurses, health care workers, admin staff, porters and cleaners.
But not all of these will take part, because unions have agreed urgent care should not be affected. For example, ambulance staff will be on strike but they will still be on hand to answer 999 calls.
“Many services will be working in much the same way they do at a weekend or on a bank holiday”
Dean Royles NHS Employers
Radiographers, physics, podiatrists and chiropodists are also walking out.
However, the British Medical Association, Royal College of Nursing and Royal College of Midwives are not taking part.
George Osborne opened a new front in the Coalition’s escalating conflict with the unions yesterday as he announced pay cuts for millions of state employees.
On the eve of the largest national strike since 1979, the Chancellor told nurses, police, teachers and council workers they would suffer real-terms reductions in pay until at least 2015.
State employees also face seeing their salaries reduced further under plans to abolish national pay deals, Mr Osborne warned.
Union leaders accused the Chancellor of launching a “class war” after he chose to announce the pay reforms just hours before a national strike over pensions by 2 million public sector staff was due to begin.
Mr Osborne’s statement came as official forecasts predicted 710,000 more public sector workers could lose their jobs in the next six years.
Workers ranging from lollipop ladies to nuclear physicists are expected to join the industrial action over pensions, which ministers expect to close 90% of state schools and bring “gridlock” to airports.
Figures released by the Scottish Government’s NHS Information Services Division (ISD) today reveal the number of nursing staff employed by NHS Scotland is continuing to fall, with a further 372 posts lost between June and September 2011. This means that in the space of a year, the number of nursing and midwifery staff in post has fallen by 1,569 (2.7%) to 56,309, and more than 2,000 nursing posts have been lost in two years.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Scotland Director Theresa Fyffe said:
“True to their word, health boards are cutting the number of nurses they employ, as they set out in their workforce projections for the financial year. As a result the number of nursing staff working in our NHS is at its lowest level since 2006. Health boards are in the unenviable position of having to balance their books and make savings at the same time. This is resulting in cuts to the nursing workforce – the backbone of the NHS – so they can save money on their wage bills, yet at the same time Scotland’s population is getting older and living longer with complex conditions so healthcare demand is going up. These cuts are not only bad news for patient care, but mean that the remaining staff in the NHS are increasingly over-stretched. Our most recent survey of members in the NHS found that half reported they were too busy to provide the standard of care they would like to.
An audit of bowel cancer patients has found that 11 per cent of those undergoing emergency surgery in England and Wales die within 30 days of an operation.
That is more than four times higher than the rate for those who had pre-planned surgery (2.4 per cent).
Part of the reason for the difference is that those presenting as urgent or emergency cases are sicker. For example, their tumours can be so large that they can be blocking the intestine, which can kill very quickly. They can also cause deadly bleeds.
However, surgeons believe it is also because hospitals have tended to prioritise pre-planned surgery over emergency surgery, due to the way they are paid.
Professor Paul Finan from Leeds General Infirmary, lead author of the audit, said: “There has been a real push to do elective [pre-planned] surgery to reduce waiting times, and emergency surgery has become a bit of Cinderella.