British nurses to escalate strike action in pay dispute

Nurses strike in London
NHS nurses hold banners during a strike, amid a dispute with the government over pay, in London, Britain January 18, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of British nurses will intensify their industrial action next month with lengthier strikes involving previously exempt staff, their union said on Thursday, as they remain locked in a dispute with the government over pay.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said its next strike would run continuously for 48 hours from 0600 GMT on March 1 and involve nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services who did not take part in earlier walk outs.

A series of two-day strikes held by the RCN in December, January and earlier this month, only ran for 12 hours each day.

"At first, we asked thousands to keep working during the strikes but it is clear that is only prolonging the dispute," RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said, adding that no area of the state-run National Health Service would be unaffected.

Britain is experiencing its largest wave of strike action in decades, involving hundreds of thousands of workers from a range of professions and piling pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to settle the disputes, many of which involve the public sector.

The RCN, which says nurses have suffered over a decade of poor pay leading to thousands leaving the profession, has been pushing for a pay rise which better reflects the worst inflation in Britain in four decades.

The government has said that such pay rises would only inflame inflation further, causing interest rates and mortgages to go up.

"By refusing to negotiate with nurses, the prime minister is pushing even more people into the strike. He must listen to NHS leaders and not let this go ahead," Cullen said.

Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar, Editing by Kylie MacLellan

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