The Unions v The Government of UK

The Sunak Government is left with little choice but to make a climb down in his fight with the Nurses, who are willing to also come to a reasonable deal.

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A protester opposite Downing Street listens to one of the speakers on a day of action over the surging cost of living. [ Photo: Wikimedia]

The strikes up and down the country in the cold winter at end of 2022 and early 2023 as many would state, is to test the nerve of the Conservative Government.

It has been seen to be coming for many months, but Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, like his predecessor Margaret Thatcher, has painted the Trade Unions, as well as the Labour Opposition for supporting picket lines, as the enemies of ordinary hard working Brits, blaming them for causing the chaos in the run up to Christmas.

It has in one sense worked as 49% of the British public is opposed to some of the Unions, particularly, the RMT Rail Union as greedy. Some other unions like the Transport Salaried Staff (TSSA) last week voted to accept Network Rail’s offer of at least 9% for this year and next with Network Rail promising to make no compulsory redundancies until 31 January 2025.

Private Contractors have agreed pay offers with Unions

Other Unions, like Unite have also accepted an improved pay offer for the Ground Handling Staff at Heathrow Airport from their Private Contractor, Menzies. So have planned strikes by Security Guards on Eurostar to Paris on December 16 and 18th were similarly suspended while they considered a fresh pay offer from Contractor, Mities.

We read that Rolls Royce, a unit of Germany’s BMW, had agreed a very generous pay offer with the Union, Unite, on 16 December 2022, worth 14.8% and up to 17%, the largest single pay deal in the history of the factory at Goodwood, West Sussex,Southern England.

Another well-known name, EasyJet agreed to raise base pay by 7.5% in France and averted a French Cabin crew strike over Christmas.

While many Private Companies have seen it constructive to make peace with their Unions,

The British Government has been holding firm, even with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

Is Nurses Pay more important in today’s political scene?

The two professions, one the Train Drivers (RMT) on an average salary of £59,000 pa with fewer vacancies and Nurses on just under £35,000, with 45,000 odd nursing vacancies across England, there is public sympathy (66% at a recent poll) with the Nurses.

The Sunak Government is left with little choice but to make a climb down in his fight with the Nurses, who are willing to also come to a reasonable deal.

It may be a “U Turn,” the second time in his recent six weeks that P.M.Sunak would have to cave in, similarly to his change on his housing agenda, on the building of onshore wind farms.

With MP’s salaries on £84,000 and some “moonlighting” there is a hue and cry to help the Nurses. The Big Issue is who deserves a pay rise at present, a Nurse or a Train Driver?

Can you compare Train Drivers to Nurses?  Train Drivers have six (6) months training inside the train cab, while Nurses need up to six (6) years training on the hospital floor. However, in a sense it is not comparing like with like and here is the difficulty from the Government’s standpoint.

We all know the NHS needs a major overhaul and an efficiency drive. But look at it another way, the average Nurse’s salary is four (4) times the State Pension. But, will we be better off rapidly reaching the “Cost of Insurance” based Health Care, like the United States, or Germany.

The main question on people’s minds is: “Will Private Medicine be a more effective service than the NHS, we have got used to over decades?

I leave it to you to decide, which is better?

Victor Cherubim

Victor Cherubim is a London-based writer and a frequent columnist of the Sri Lanka Guardian

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