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Uk braces for December strike action as nurses goes on strike this week

British nurses will go on strike this week, hitting already stretched hospitals and cranking up pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to quell the biggest wave of industrial action to hit the country in decades.

The walkout comes as strikes cripple the rail network and postal service, airports brace for disruption and junior doctors, midwives and teachers prepare to ballot, threatening to further jam up an economy that is likely already in recession.

Unions are seeking double-digit pay rises to keep pace with inflation that hit 11.1% in October, the highest in 41 years.

But the government has so far refused to budge on pay and is instead looking to tighten laws to stop some strikes, meaning there is no end in sight for what has been dubbed a new “winter of discontent” in reference to the industrial battles that gripped Britain in 1978-79.

Strikes are due on each day this month. Union estimates forecast more than 1 million working days will be lost in December, making it the worst month for disruption since July 1989.

Unions say the pay rise offers on the table, many for around 4%, are not enough given that many workers have already gone without any real-term wage growth over the last decade. In many cases, the action is also about working conditions.

“(For nurses) the job is getting harder and harder all of the time for a salary that is worth less and less,” Patricia Marquis, director of the RCN in England, said.

The government will hope that the forecast for inflation to start to fall from the middle of 2023 will help.

Sunak, only six weeks into the job, has said the government cannot afford pay rises for public sector workers which cover inflation and has called union leaders unreasonable.

But as strikes lead to non-urgent surgeries being cancelled and longer ambulance waiting times, public anger at the state of the country could force the government to give ground.

Sunak wants to extend laws to maintain some services in transport and could ban strikes in some other sectors. The army will be drafted in to drive ambulances and man airport passport desks during strikes.


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