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1988: Nurses protest for better pay

Nurses across the UK have taken part in a day of industrial action to secure more money for themselves and the NHS.

In the House of Commons Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher condemned the health workers' strike saying it was prolonging waiting lists and deserting patients.


"Health workers totally demoralised and dejected"

Rodney Bickerstaffe, general secretary Nupe

But just 200 of the 9,000 operations planned for today had to be cancelled, according to Health Service figures.

Many nurses and health service staff joined pickets during their breaks or arranged cover for their shifts.

The Department of Health described the action as patchy and estimated only 2% of the country's 470,000 nurses were actually on strike.

The National Union of Public Employees (Nupe) said about 2,500 nurses were striking officially and 6,000 others supported them throughout the day.

In London, they were joined by patients, pensioner groups and Labour MPs in the 40 hospitals across the capital.

A South Yorkshire pit, Frickley Colliery, was brought to a standstill when nearly 200 day-shift workers refused to cross the nurses' picket line at the pit gate.

Department of Health plans to offer nurses a 3% pay rise and end national wage increases in favour of regional variations were leaked to the Nursing Times magazine, published yesterday.

The general secretary of Nupe - which is leading the current protest - Rodney Bickerstaffe described the 3% as "a pathetic and bitter blow to other health workers already totally demoralised and dejected."

Defending the government document, written for the Nurses Pay Review Board, Health Minister Tony Newton said: "Wage rises of just under 3% would compensate the average earner for price rises over the last 12 months."

A Gallup Poll carried out last night shows the British public sympathises with the nurses' strike action and supports their demands for higher pay.

The nurses' independent pay review body will report in April.

In Context
Nursing unions continued to battle with the government over pay rises and threatened further strike action.

The Royal College of Nursing - the biggest nursing union - balloted its members over its no-strike pledge in mid-February.

Cohse announced a national day of action for 14 March, the eve of the budget.

A new clinical grading structure came into force and average pay increases of 15% - more for specialists - were recommended by the pay review body when it reported in April.

The government accepted the recommendations and funded the rises centrally, rather than adding to the burdens of the health authorities.


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