Strikes: whose side are you really on? | Jack Marshall's column
These people are our fellow citizens, hard-working people who are passionate about their work and just want to be treated fairly. Striking is a last-gasp cry for help, the result of 13 years of crippling underfunding, inflation, and nasty rhetoric. It’s not rocket science: this is the first generation to be worse-off than their parents since the 1880s, so they’re fed up.
According to the Office of National Statistics, real-term wages declined by 2.6% from September to November 2022, everything getting more expensive at a time when we’re all poorer. Teachers have had a real-term pay cut of 23% since 2010 and rail-workers are being vilified whilst private train operators have paid £8.3bn in shareholder dividends since 1996.
Want to know what 13 years of an underfunded NHS gets you? A shortfall of 4,200 GPs and 131,000 vacancies across the entire service, which is currently running at an alarming 95% bed occupancy while 2019 data shows the OECD average was 76%. From 2010 to 2019, the UK spent 21% less per person on healthcare than France and 39% less than Germany.
Maddeningly, an average of 13,000 NHS beds at any time are occupied by patients who could otherwise leave but who physically can’t because of the privatisation and defunding of social care, with the cumulative NHS funding gap since 2010 standing at more than £200bn. Poor pay and stressful conditions mean 8% fewer people are applying to nursing courses.
The situation is dire and so people strike - the last resort of the abused and unappreciated - because striking works: industrial action earned us weekends, minimum wage, limits on working hours, increased annual leave, and parental leave. Annoyed? That’s the point. But point your rage in the right direction.
Hint: it’s not the nurses and the teachers. It’s the people who recently introduced new legislation to make it harder to strike. Wonder why they did that.