Union leaders could coordinate industrial action across the NHS this winter to cause “maximum impact”, the head of the GMB has suggested.
Andy Prendergast, the GMB national secretary, said health workers have had enough of “public school boys who run the government and simply don’t care” about their pay demands.
More than 10,000 ambulance workers from the GMB voted to strike yesterday, following in the footsteps of nurses in opting to walk out.
Asked if there will be a “coordinated strike” in the health service, Mr Prendergast told Sky News: “We will be talking to the other unions.
“We know that the nurses have got their first ballot in over 100 years. We know that our colleagues in Unite, in Unison are currently delivering ballots.
“So we’ll be looking to make sure this has the maximum impact.”
It was put to Mr Prendergast that the safety of patients could not be guaranteed if there is coordinated strike action between unions and the NHS.
He argued their safety is not being guaranteed now due to the staffing crisis, with poor pay driving many out of the profession.
“One third of our members in the ambulance service believe that they have been involved in a delay that has led to a patient dying, so this isn’t a situation where this is a service that runs perfectly well,” he said.
NHS ‘dying on its feet’
“This is a service that’s dying on its feet and our members are actually standing up and the public of Britain should support them. This is a matter of a life or death situation.”
Mr Prendergast said NHS workers “work extremely hard, often for wages that a lot of people wouldn’t get out of bed for”.
He added: “Ultimately they are saying enough is enough. It’s time for them to take action. This is the one thing that they can do to try and improve patient safety, to try and improve the terms conditions, to try and deal with 135,000 vacancies that we have among a service that we rely on.”
Paramedics, emergency care assistants, call handlers and other staff are set to walk out in nine trusts:
- South West Ambulance Service
- South East Coast Ambulance Service
- North West Ambulance Service
- South Central Ambulance Service
- North East Ambulance Service
- East Midlands Ambulance Service
- West Midlands Ambulance Service
- Welsh Ambulance Service
- Yorkshire Ambulance Service
The industrial action is due to take place before Christmas, with the union planning to meet reps in the coming days to discuss dates.
Thousands of ambulance workers in Unison, the UK’s biggest trade union, also intend to take industrial action before Christmas.
Up to 100,000 nurses from the Royal College of Nursing are also set to stage a mass walkout in December, one of the busiest months for the NHS.
The army has been placed on stand by in case it is needed to fill roles of NHS workers on strike days.
Coordinated strike ‘can speed up negotiations’
Dr Emma Runswick of the British Medical Association told Sky News that coordination between unions will help protect patients as they can discuss between themselves how to cover urgent and emergency care.
She added that an effective coordinated strike “will help to speed up negotiations”.
“We want there to be an impact on the employers and on the government to bring them to the table to negotiate with us. And if we coordinate and if we’re effective, the government and employers will negotiate faster. And that’s better for us and better for patients in the long term.”
The UK is facing a wave of strikes this winter as workers from different industries are set to walk out over pay and conditions
Rail workers, civil servants, firefighters and teachers are among the tens of thousands expected to take industrial action as a recession grips the UK and the cost of living rises.
Wage price spiral ‘nonsense’
Ministers have been criticised for refusing to negotiate with unions, with Business Secretary Grant Shapps saying meeting their pay demands would lead to a wage inflation “spiral”.
Eddie Dempsey, assistant general secretary of the RMT, which covers the transport sector, rubbished that argument.
“This idea that there’s going to be a wage spiral is nonsense because wages have been falling as a share of wealth in this country – what goes to wages and what goes to profits,” he said.
Mr Dempsey said that now, wages only account for around 8% to 12% of unit costs.
He pointed to a study from the Bank of England which found there was no risk of wage-induced inflation across Western economies because people have got less money.
He claimed what the government is actually worried about “is a shift in class power”.
“They’re worried about trade unions and ordinary working people having the ability to bargain for better wages. That’s what they’re worried about.”
Rail union ‘hopeful’ of deal to end strikes
Mr Dempsey said his union has been in negotiations for longer than six months and “every time we feel like we are making headway it has felt like the rug has been pulled out from under our feet”.
However he said there is “definitely a change of tone” with the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper and the RMT is “hopeful” a deal can be reached.
Royal Mail workers are also locked in a bitter dispute over pay and conditions, with the CEO Simon Thompson accusing union leaders of “trying to destroy Christmas” by walking out.
He claimed striking workers had demonstrated “extraordinary behaviours” and that he has heard allegations of racism, sexism and violence.
Royal Mail CEO accused of ‘lying’
Speaking during Sky’s Q&A with union leaders, Dave Ward of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) accused Mr Thompson of “lying”.
He said the union “welcomes an independent look at behaviours” of his members but the CEO’s behaviour should also be investigated.
“He goes on (social media) every single day, including weekends. and he goads our members,” Mr Ward said.
“He’s brought in a team of union and worker busters and they’re deliberately creating a psychological attack on every single worker.
“Go out and ask postal workers how they feel about this particular CEO.”
Tyre Nichols: Last words of US man who died after police ‘beating’ were ‘mum, mum, mum’, says lawyer
The final words of a US motorist who died after he was allegedly beaten by five police officers were “mum, mum, mum”, according to a lawyer.
Bodycam footage of the altercation is expected to be released later on Friday evening.
His family said the “very horrific” video showed officers savagely beating the FedEx worker for three minutes in an assault their lawyers likened to the Los Angeles police attack on motorist Rodney King in 1991.
Five sacked officers, who are all black, have been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes, including assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression, over Mr Nichols’s death.
Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, who is representing his family, said when the public watches the footage they will see him calling out for his mother.
He said: “When you all see this video, you’re going to see Tyre Nichols calling out for his mum.
“He calls out three times for his mother. His last words on this earth are, ‘mum, mum, mum’. He’s screaming for her. When you think about that kidnapping charge, he said ‘I just want to go home’.”
“It’s a traffic stop for God’s sake. A simple traffic stop.”
Mr Nichols’s mother, RowVaughn Wells, told reporters: “For a mother to know their child was calling them in their need and I wasn’t there for him. Do you know how I feel right now? Because I wasn’t there for my son.”
Ms Wells recalled she had “a really bad pain in my stomach” and once she found out what happened she realised “that was my son’s pain that I was feeling”.
“For me to find out my son was calling my name, you have no clue how I feel right now,” she added, struggling to hold back tears.
She also said she had not yet seen the video but urged anyone with children not to let them watch it.
“I have never seen the video but what I have heard is very horrific.”
She added the charged officers had “disgraced their families”.
“I want to say to the five police officers who murdered my son, you also disgraced your own families when you did this.
“But I am going to pray for you and your families. Because this shouldn’t have happened. We want justice for my son.”
She has pleaded for peaceful protests.
Police pulled Mr Nichols over for alleged reckless driving before there was an “altercation” where officers used pepper spray on him, according to Shelby County district attorney Steve Mulroy.
Mr Nichols then tried to flee on foot and another altercation followed, he added.
His family say the officers beat him and the injuries he sustained during the encounter led to his death.
Relatives accuse police of causing him to have a heart attack and kidney failure. Authorities have only said he experienced a medical emergency.
The officers were assigned to the ‘scorpion’ unit which focuses on violent street crime. The family’s lawyers want it to be disbanded.
Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis has said the department will review scorpion and other specialised units.
President Joe Biden said the Nichols family and the city of Memphis deserve “a swift, full and transparent investigation”.
“Public trust is the foundation of public safety, and there are still too many places in America today where the bonds of trust are frayed or broken,” he added.
Palestinian militants ‘ready to die’ as prospect of all-out war increases after West Bank clashes
The alleyways that run inside the Balata refugee camp are narrow, claustrophobic and full of uncollected rubbish.
Posters celebrating dead militants are stuck to the walls. Children are everywhere – more than half the population of the camp is under 25.
We were escorted to meet fighters from Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, one of the largest and oldest militant groups in the West Bank.
They are a proscribed terror group by Israel, the EU and US, but not the UK.
Out front, I turned a corner and they were there – dressed all in black, M16 assault rifles in hand and balaclavas covering their faces.
They are young men, heavily armed and say they are ready to die defending their land.
We made our introductions and then moved down another alleyway – an Israeli military lookout post was on the hill above us; snipers watch every move in the camp below.
“We’re seeing an escalation by the [Israeli] occupation forces across camps in the West Bank, especially in Jenin and Balata,” one of the militants tells me.
“Most of the operations are carried out by the Israeli special forces. Yesterday, two of our men were killed in clashes when they entered inside the camp.”
The fighters are relaxed. This is their stronghold.
CCTV cameras seem to be everywhere, they joke it’s like Paris or London; the militia has its own reconnaissance unit that watches for undercover Israeli special forces entering the camp.
Violent clashes have been more frequent in recent months – 2022 was the deadliest year since 2005 and already 2023, only a few weeks old, is more deadly still.
After nine Palestinians, mostly militants, were killed in an Israeli counter-terror raid on Thursday, the prospect of another all-out war is closer.
One of those killed was a 61-year old woman, Magda Obaid, caught in the crossfire.
The IDF says it’s investigating her death, but the list of unexplained civilian fatalities is growing.
“I think because of the policies of the right-wing Israeli government there will be an escalation in the West Bank,” the militant from Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades predicts.
Talk of a new uprising, a third intifada, which has been so often threatened in recent years, is emerging again.
“I think that there is an intifada coming,” Ibrahim Ramadan, governor of Nablus tells me.
“Why? There is not any hope among my people. The Palestinian people need hope, small hope for their freedom.”
The deputy mayor of Nablus, Dr Husam Shakhshiris, is more sanguine but equally blunt in his assessment of the current situation.
“It [Nablus] is occupied by the state of Israel. The Israeli army is entering the city everyday,” he says.
“We have two military camps on top [of the surrounding hills], we have seven settlements surrounding Nablus city connected by bus routes, and it’s easy for the Israelis to close the city and prevent the movement in and out of the city.”
As we walk around the city together, Dr Husam is clearly popular. Residents stop to greet him.
Unlike the militants we met, he has the wisdom of age and is thoughtful and considered in his words, but no less damning of Israel.
“How bad is it?” I ask him.
“This is bad. I see all the time in the past that there was hope to have a peace solution, to have a two-state solution implemented, especially after Oslo,” says Dr Husam.
“Now we don’t see this hope, we don’t see a peaceful solution and we are stuck in these contours created by the policies of the state of Israel. They don’t see or recognise our national right of self-determination.
“It is the worst situation in my life.”
Violence in Israel and the West Bank goes in cycles.
Right now, any prospect of peace talks, or even a two-state solution, feels a long way off.
Neither side is in the mood to talk or to compromise, and so for many Palestinians fighting seems like the only route to more freedoms.
Seven dead after shooting at synagogue in Jerusalem, Israeli police say
Seven people have been killed and several injured in a shooting at a synagogue in Jerusalem, according to Israeli police.
The gunman was shot and killed and a large police presence was at the scene.
Several others were injured in the shooting, including a 70-year-old woman in critical condition and a 14-year-old boy in serious condition, the medical service said.
Israeli police described it as a “terror attack” and said it took place in a synagogue in Neve Yaakov, considered by Israelis to be a neighbourhood within Jerusalem, while Palestinians and most of the international community consider it occupied land illegally annexed after the Six-Day War in 1967.
They said the attacker was a “terrorist who was neutralised by the police force” and described him as a 21-year-old resident of East Jerusalem who “carried out the attack at the scene alone”.
It comes after a deadly raid by the Israeli military yesterday that killed nine Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. A 10th was later killed north of Jerusalem.
Gaza militants then fired rockets and Israel responded with air strikes overnight. There were no reports of injuries.
Earlier today Palestinians marched in anger as they buried the last of the people killed by Israeli fire.
Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem told Reuters: “This operation is a response to the crime conducted by the occupation in Jenin and a natural response to the occupation’s criminal actions”, though he stopped short of claiming the attack.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad also praised but did not claim the attack.
Speaking from near the scene Sky correspondent Alistair Bunkall said: “We’ve seen some ambulances leaving the scene as we’ve been here in the last half an hour or so.
“Things are incredibly tense. There have been flashbangs set off just up the road from us in the Palestinian neighbourhood.”
“And it comes of course on International Holocaust Memorial Day, the attack happened just hours after the start of Shabbat, the Israeli day of rest, and it comes barely 24 hours after 10 people were killed in the West Bank yesterday, including nine in an Israeli special forces raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin.”
The United States condemned the “apparent terrorist attack”, with US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said he did not expect changes to Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to Israel next week.
“This is absolutely horrific. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to those killed by this heinous act of violence. We condemn this apparent terrorist attack in the strongest terms. Our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad,” he said.
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