Thousands of ambulance workers are staging a fresh strike on Monday in the long-running dispute over pay and staffing, while a ballot of junior doctors for industrial action will be announced.
The GMB said more than 11,000 of its ambulance workers will walk out in England and Wales, including paramedics, emergency care assistants and call handlers, with ambulance workers in the Unite union in parts of the country also on strike.
Around 45,000 junior doctors who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA) in England have also been balloted on strike action – with the result to be announced on Monday.
With expectations of a big vote in favour of walkouts, the BMA has already warned it will stage a three-day strike if there is a yes vote.
Meanwhile, civil servants working for the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are beginning their second week of strike action.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) based in Bristol and Carlisle are taking action as part of a long-running dispute over pay, jobs, pensions and conditions in the civil service.
The union said strikes at APHA are believed to have already caused delays for imports and exports, including caviar.
“Our members should not be forced to choose between heating and eating – they should be paid a fair wage for the important work they do.”
Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, accused the Government of being “tin-eared”, adding: “It’s been over a month since the Government engaged in any meaningful dialogue.
“They are missing in action and refuse to talk pay.”
The BMA’s most senior doctor accused the Prime Minister of being “thoughtless and bellicose” in his refusal to find a workable agreement with NHS staff over pay and conditions.
Speaking at a young doctors’ conference in Bristol, Professor Philip Banfield, the BMA’s chairman of council, said Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Steve Barclay are “standing on the precipice of an historic mistake”.
He said that refusing to enter meaningful negotiations with trade unions means the Government is “guaranteeing escalation”, while thinking they can stay silent and wait it out is “reckless”.
Prof Banfield said junior doctors deserve better and are not expensive for the expertise and skills they provide.
He accused the Government of “letting patients down”, adding: “All NHS staff are standing up for our patients in a system that seems to have forgotten that valuing staff and their well-being is directly linked to patient safety and better outcomes of care.
Meanwhile, striking nurses will be paid 60% more by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) than during previous walkouts, it has been revealed.
The RCN also disclosed that it has received £250,000 in donations from the public since starting its strike action for more pay in December.
The union is increasing the day rate for those on the picket line from £50 to £80.
Nurses who have already gone on strike for four days will get £120 a day as the RCN dips into a £50 million fighting fund before an unprecedented full 48-hour walkout on March 1.
The daily take-home pay of a nurse on the average salary of £36,000 is about £135, assuming a four-day working week.
A typical nurse who took part in all six strike days, plus the two in March, could in theory claim £540 in strike pay – but will have lost £1,080.
The RCN said the move is aimed at shoring up nurses’ resolve and to undermine the Government’s strategy to “wait out the strikes rather than negotiate”.
The union said the decision to include emergency services, cancer care and other previously exempt services has rocked NHS managers, who are calling on the Government to settle the dispute or risk waiting times rising significantly as tens of thousands of operations are cancelled.
Hospital trusts have been told to submit a risk assessment of next month’s strikes to NHS England by midday on Monday.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We hugely value the work of junior doctors and we have been clear that supporting and retaining the NHS workforce is one of our main priorities.
“As part of a multi-year deal we agreed with the BMA, junior doctors’ pay has increased by a cumulative 8.2% since 2019/20. We also introduced a higher pay band for the most experienced staff and increased rates for night shifts.
“The Health and Social Care Secretary has met with the BMA and other medical unions to discuss pay, conditions and workload. He’s been clear he wants to continue discussing how we can make the make the NHS a better place to work for all.”