Staff at the UK's National Health Service launch strike action across the country in protest after the government rejects calls for a 1 percent pay rise for some nurses, midwives, ambulance and support staff in England and Northern Ireland. Joel Flynn looks at what the historic strike action could mean.
It's one of the most revered health services in the world. But workers from Britain's National Health Service are not happy. They have staged the first walkout in over 30 years - demanding a 1 percent increase in pay for all staff. SOUNDBITE: Midwife, Farhana Faruque, saying (English): "It's all about fair pay. It's not about extra pay, just fair pay." Around 400,000 nurses, ambulance and support staff stopped work for four hours. But it was the midwives many were watching - on strike for the first time in their 133 history. Suzanne Taylor from the Royal College of Midwives. SOUNDBITE: Midwife Director of Services to Members, Suzanne Taylor, saying (English): "It's a 1 percent pay rise that the Chancellor said was affordable last year, and which the independent pay review body recommended. Jeremy Hunt then unilaterally overrode that, and said that midwives, nurses would not get their pay rises." Despite the pressure, the government is digging its heels in. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. SOUNDBITE: British Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, saying (English): "Around 55 percent of NHS staff get an automatic rise of 3 percent through their increments, and what we're saying is we can't afford to give a 1 percent pay rise on top of the 3 percent, and that's for a very simple reason, we have a very clear analysis that says if we did that, hospitals next year would lay off around 4,000 nurses and around 10,000 nurses the year after that." SOUNDBITE: Reuters Reporter, Joel Flynn, saying (English): "The last time NHS staff walked out over pay was under a Conservative government, but today's incumbents in office won't be worried about history, they'll be worried about the future, with Labour having made the NHS a top priority at next year's General Election." Despite a growing economy wages in the UK aren't going up - meaning a fall in living standards. That's likely to mean a few lively debates between now and May's election.