NURSES who have ‘given their all’ in what they say has been the toughest period of their careers walked out of Barnsley Hospital to strike in a bid to secure better wages and more staff this week.
‘Heartbroken’ employees took matters into their own hands to picket yesterday and Wednesday, with ambulance workers set to do the same on Monday in a row over pay and a lack of help.
Organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) - which staged the first strikes in its 106-year history in some areas of the country last month - nurses took to the hospital’s Gawber Road entrance, joining colleagues across the country in the two-day walk-out from 7am until 8pm.
One nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, has clocked up more than 20 years’ service and told the Chronicle the strike was a ‘last resort’ in a bid to drive up wages and retain staff.
“It’s heartbreaking for us to walk out but we’ve done everything to help during the country’s time of need - the majority of us have gone above and beyond without a moment’s hesitation,” she said.
“In more than two decades, the last two-and-a-half years have been the toughest of them all - Covid-19 has hurt the NHS and while we’re still dealing with infections and absences, the impact of it are being felt right across the board.
“We want better pay and more staff - only the government can solve that.
“The public who have supported us throughout need to know that the decision wasn’t taken lightly.
“We’re not greedy, we’re not unkind and we want to be inside the hospital, doing our jobs, helping people - not stood outside in freezing temperatures.
“It just isn’t something that we wanted to do but it’s right to say that we really haven’t been given much choice.”
The RCN believe a pay hike that goes five per cent above the inflation rate is justified, but so far Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has failed to budge.
RCN chief executive Pat Cullen said: “It is with a heavy heart that nursing staff are striking.
“We are doing this in a desperate bid to get ministers to rescue the NHS.
“The only credible solution is to address the tens of thousands of unfilled jobs - patient care is suffering like never before.
“My olive branch to governments - asking them to meet me halfway and begin negotiations - is still there.
“They should grab it.”
Barnsley Hospital bosses confirmed they had put plans in place to manage the action - but admitted recent pressures in the last few months have been record-breaking in its A and E department.
MP Stephanie Peacock, who represents Barnsley East, urged the government to act.
“Industrial action is always a last resort - workers on low pay do not choose to lose a day’s wage unless they absolutely have to,” she said.
“I know, because I have been on strike as a low-paid teacher so for anyone to suggest that striking is a decision that is taken lightly is simply wrong.
“Industrial action on the scale we are seeing today has not happened in a generation.
“In 1984, 14,000 miners went on strike in Barnsley, and 200,000 across the country, to defend their industry.
“That was an attack on one industry by a government determined to destroy mining in this country - this is an attack on all workers across the public sector, in a clear attempt to get workers to pay the price for this government’s economic mistakes.
“The government are trying to label them the new enemy within, but these are the people who kept our country going during the pandemic.
“If they want to get the country moving again, they will pay them a decent wage and stop threatening them with the sack.”