Carmel O’Boyle has worked in the National Health Service for more than a quarter of a century, first as a healthcare assistant and later as a nurse at a care center in Liverpool.
“The pressures of winter are always harsh. But after working through the pandemic, we are exhausted. Morale is down. We are desperate for help,” she said. “We are saying: enough is enough, we cannot continue like this. It cannot be poured from an empty cup.
“We have a group that goes here where nurses walk around Liverpool looking for good charity shops to buy toys for their children,” said O’Boyle, who is going on strike for the first time, along with thousands of nurses across the UK on Thursday. “That’s grim.”
Some city nurses share their homes during the day to reduce bills. “They take turns, so they only have to heat one house,” O’Boyle said. “Someone could watch all the kids on a Saturday so they only have one house to heat and the others can do extra shifts.”
Other nurses are using hospital food banks. O’Boyle recently organized a grocery drive for a nursing student who brought in half a cucumber for lunch. The other half was all she and her roommate had for the rest of the week. “Trusts are now introducing staff food banks because they have realized that staff are not bringing food to eat at lunchtime, or feeding their families at home,” O’Boyle said. “It’s amazing that we have staff on the poverty line in this day and age.”
Falling wages have caused many to leave nursing and made hiring difficult. There is at least 47,000 nursing positions in England unfilled. “If we don’t pay people properly, we can’t recruit or retain,” O’Boyle said. “This impacts patient care because we are not enough to care for people.”
Maria Lyons, the union representative leading the picket line outside the Bristol post office, is a passionate believer in the strike, which is configured to run on most of this weekis about the very future of the Royal Mail.
“The least of what we are on strike for is the pay. We are fighting for a postal service,” said Lyons, 53, who has been sorting letters and packages downtown for 21 years.
“Royal Mail wants to get rid of the universal service. They don’t want to honor this 500-year promise to deliver this equal and beautiful piece of British cultural heritage to every home. No matter where you are in the pecking order, everyone has this promised delivery in their direction.”
Workers warming up by the fire pit outside the largely empty staff car park fear Royal Mail will eventually become a gig-economy-style parcel delivery operation. On The company will cut 10,000 jobs by Augustwith 240 jobs potentially going from the Bristol post center, according to the Communication Workers Union.
“Basically, they want to bring in agency staff and get rid of people on good terms and conditions, which the union has fought for,” Lyons said.
Royal Mail says it wants a more flexible workforce. Strikers fear they will have to work on demand, rather than agreed shift patterns. “They could call us at any time. The business would own our lives,” said Lyons, who earns, like most postal workers, less than £25,000 a year. I have kids. Many people have children. It’s not viable.”
Mail backlog is growing in the hub, which serves Bristol and the surrounding area. There are currently around 400 cages of letters and packages waiting to be sorted. “There’s more in the yard, there’s almost as much outside as inside,” he said. “Is incredible.”
Lyons argues that it is Royal Mail, not striking postal workers, destroying Christmas: “We are doing everything possible to save a service that does offer Christmas.”
Josh (not his real name), who is a mainline train service provider, earns less than £25,000 a year and has He hasn’t had a raise for three years. Rent a room in a shared house in the North East of England. because he can’t afford his own place.
Josh won’t sign up for a wage deal unless train companies drop plans that he said would cut jobs, close ticket booths and bring in conductor-only trains. “They want to minimize staffing levels on the trains,” said Josh, who will be on strike for four days this week. “This came out in our last pay offer – there were 13 trades we had to accept to get 4%. One of them was trains operated only by conductors. This would erase the roles of train managers, making travel incredibly unsafe for passengers.”
Last week a passenger had a seizure. Josh and his colleagues called the train manager, who arranged for an ambulance to pick him up. “That gentleman could have passed away,” Josh said.
However, health emergencies are not the only problems. “On weekends the cases of sexual and physical assaults are much higher. If there are no staff, the trains will become lawless and dangerous,” Josh said.
Payment is still a big problem. Josh knows some coworkers who use food banks. He said: “A full-time worker at a food bank is a shame… having food in the cupboard and a roof over your head shouldn’t be a problem if you’re working.”
He has no time for the argument that the government cannot afford to give in to the workers’ demands. “It is a complete lie. The money is there. They don’t want to give it away because they want to line their pockets and pay their friends. can give 7.3 billion pounds to the bankers,so they can pay us,” Josh said.
Most of the passengers are understanding, according to Josh. “If you’re in first class, you get a little more negativity than in standard class,” he said. “But overwhelmingly, the trains have been full of positive support.”