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UK sends 1,200 troops to cover ambulance strike

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LONDON (AP) — The British government said on Sunday it would send 1,200 troops to make up for striking ambulance drivers and border guards as several public sector unions quit their jobs the week before Christmas. Announced.

Paramedics are scheduled to go on strike Wednesday and will join nurses, railroad workers, passport officers and postal workers in a series of strikes in the coming weeks.

Britain’s deadliest wave of strikes in decades is a response to a cost of living crisis caused by soaring food and energy prices in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

About 417,000 working days were lost to strikes in October, the most in a decade.

Unions are calling for wage increases to combat inflation, which has fallen slightly from 10.7% in November and 11.1% in October, but is still at its highest level in 40 years.

The Conservative government has argued that double-digit price hikes will further fuel inflation and is trying to hold union leaders accountable for the disruption. In tabloid The Sun on Sunday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak branded the union chief a “Grinch who wants to steal Christmas for his own political ends.”

Cabinet Minister Oliver Dowden said it was irresponsible to allow public sector salaries and inflation to spiral out of control.

“We are advancing the economy. Please don’t jeopardize it with these unreachable demands,” he told the BBC.

The government has calculated that public opinion will turn against unions as people across the UK face postponed hospital appointments, train cancellations and travel delays during the winter holiday season. Polls show high support for workers, especially nurses. It was the first time in her 100-year history of the union, the Royal College of Nursing, that she had gone on strike in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Nurses and paramedics say they will respond to emergencies during the strike.

“Members have promised to scramble the picket lines and take ambulances in the event of an emergency that needs to be covered,” said Unite union national chief Onai Kasab.

But Matthew Taylor, head of the NHS Confederation’s health service, said patients would be at risk and called on both the government and unions to compromise.

“We are in the middle of winter and have health services that are finding it difficult to cope, even on a mundane day without labor unrest,” he told the BBC. comes with risks, no doubt about it.”

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