The Royal College of Nurses (RCN) has announced the first two dates its members will be striking on. Predictably, the right-wing media has already worked itself up into a cliché-driven frenzy – with the fear factor headlines coming thick and fast.
Nurses: everybody out
As the Canary previously reported, the RCN’s industrial action is over appalling pay and working conditions. Successive Tory governments have slashed nurses’ real-terms pay by around £4,300 a year since 2010. This year, the government has capped NHS pay rises at 4% for most staff, while inflation is over 11%. So, the RCN balloted its members on strike action – and they overwhelmingly voted ‘yes’.
The union has now said the first walk outs will be on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December. As the Canary previously reported, the RCN will ensure that it protects life-critical services such as A&E. The union said in a statement that:
Strike action will happen in phases, meaning more strike dates could be announced after initial action in December, if governments fail to enter into formal negotiations. They have the power and means to stop strikes at any point but have chosen to go down this route.
Not all members at employers where there is a mandate to strike will be called to strike on these first two dates. Phase one could be just the beginning of a longer period of strike action.
The strikes are the RCN’s first ever national walk out. So, the right-wing media’s response has been true-to-form for trade union coverage.
‘Sick grannies stuck in hospital’
The Telegraph ran with the headline:
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Nurse strike risks elderly stuck in hospital for Christmas as union targets key dates
It noted that the RCN strikes could mean backlogs in discharging older people from hospital. The Telegraph quoted one NHS source as saying:
it’s inevitable that more people will be left in pain and discomfort, and it will be harder to transfer elderly people out of hospital.
Of course, the idea that the NHS is transferring older people out of hospital in a timely manner anyway is a nonsense. As the Telegraph itself reported in October record numbers of people are stuck in hospital when they’re well enough to be at home – because of the government-created crisis in social care. So, if you think nurses fighting for their rights will stop your sick granny coming home for Christmas – then wake up. She was unlikely to be coming home, anyway.
‘Ruining YOUR Christmas!’
Then, the Daily Mail was equally rabid (don’t click the link!). It too ran with the ‘save granny’s Christmas’ line – but threw in a big old ‘CANCER’ just to stoke people’s fear even more:
NHS nurse strike threatens Christmas chaos: Fears for cancer appointments and elderly patients stuck in hospital over festive period as thousands of nurses walk out for two days in historic national strike
- Health insiders have warned the NHS disruption this winter will cost lives
- NHS bosses say the health service faces ‘its most challenging winter ever’
- Health Secretary Steve Barclay said that he ‘deeply regrets’ the walk-outs
Of course, like the Telegraph, the Daily Mail omits the fact that cancer treatment waiting times are dire due to successive Tory government cuts – and that these times have been a problem for years.
A nurse says…
Nurse Holly Turner from campaign group NHS Workers Say No told the Canary:
Within the first few hours of strike dates for nurses being announced, the right-wing attacks have begun. Lies and spin, with attempts to demonise us and turn public opinion against hardworking staff by invoking fear in response to our action.
The focus should be around WHY nursing staff have been forced to take this decision. The highest waiting lists on record and a national staffing and bed crisis are not our fault, we have been raising the alarm for years with the government refusing to listen. It is not right that nurses are being driven into poverty, whilst working days of unpaid overtime a month in a desperate attempt to plug the gap of 135,000 vacancies across the service.
Turner also had a rallying-cry for fellow NHS workers:
We are urging all staff to stay angry, stay focused, and stay united as the attacks on each other and our profession heat up. Striking staff will be seen on the right side of history, not the right winger media and commentators, who are enabling the decimation of our national health service, and costing lives in the process.
Nurses would not carry out a national strike for the first time in their union’s history without good reason. Their fight is for all of us who use the NHS. While the right-wing media uses tired tropes against industrial action, the reality is the NHS is broken – and its staff, such as nurses, are desperately trying to fix it. Striking is a last resort – but that’s the position nurses are now at.
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