26 September 2023

UNITED KINGDOM: Public sector unrest mounting

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The United Kingdom Government is facing the worst wave of public sector unrest since the 1970s with unions representing teachers and the National Health Service (NHS) threatening to join railway workers in industrial action over pay.

The National Education Union (NEU) said that unless it received a pay offer close to inflation it would be informing Minister for Education, Nadhim Zahawi of its plan to ballot its 450,000 members.

The move could lead to strikes in schools in England later in the year.

The country’s biggest union, Unison, representing NHS staff, said the Government now faced a choice between offering a deal close to inflation or triggering a mass exodus of staff coupled with possible industrial action in hospitals.

The prospect of strikes across public services has grown as inflation climbs towards double figures, while the Treasury remains determined to keep public spending and the public sector pay bill in check.

While the Bank of England predicts inflation will rise to 11 per cent later in the year, the Government’s final offer to teachers, NHS workers and millions of others in the Public Service is expected to be four per cent at the most.

Joint General Secretary of the NEU, Kevin Courtney said unless the Government offered significantly above the three per cent Mr Zahawi had floated, the union would consult its members on industrial action.

General Secretary of Unison, Christina McAnea said the quality of NHS services in England was at stake because staff would leave if they did not receive a fair pay increase.

“The Government has a simple choice,” Ms McAnea said.

“Either it makes a sensible pay award, investing in staff and services and reducing delays for patients, or it risks a potential dispute, growing workforce shortages and increased suffering for the sick.”

London, 20 June 2022

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