Speed Reads

They've Had Enough

Health care workers stage massive walkout in U.K. over low wages

Thousands of nurses and ambulance service staff walked off the job in the United Kingdom on Monday, creating the largest strike in the history of the U.K.'s state-run health system. 

While ambulance workers and nurses have been striking separately since last year, the combined walkout is the biggest in the 75 years of the country's National Health Service. The strikes appear to be far from over, as NHS Medical Director Stephen Powis said more staff is planning to walk out over the next few days, potentially making this week "the most disruptive in NHS history," per Reuters

The NHS strike is the latest in a massive wave of protests to befall the U.K. in recent days, as people in the public sector demand higher pay in an effort to keep up with the rising cost of living. Just last week, Al Jazeera reported that up to half a million civil servants walked off the job.

Beyond NHS workers, those striking include teachers, train drivers, airport workers, border officers, postal workers, and more. 

While the NHS is demanding better pay, the British government has insisted that this is unaffordable and would simply cause the cost of living to rise even more. However, many striking health care professionals see this as an excuse. 

"The government needs to listen and discuss pay rather than just saying the NHS doesn't have money," nurse Ethna Vaughn told Reuters, adding that workers "cannot survive with what we're being paid."

Sharon Graham, head of the union representing most ambulance workers, said Sunday there had been "no talks at any level whatsoever with the government" about pay, per The Associated Pressand urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to "come to the table and negotiate."