The nurses strike or Matt Hancock on I’m a Celebrity? When you don’t have to choose between two ethical issues

I saw this tweet the other day.

It’s a classical example of poor reasoning and poor ethical thinking.  We sometimes refer to this as “Whataboutery.”  A person expresses an opinion on a moral issue.  They are then told that they should not be expressing views about that issue because issue x is far more egregious.

The misunderstanding (or perhaps that’s too kind … misrepresentation) here is that dad as he sits watching the news, complaining about striking nurses:

  1. Is quite happy for Matt Hancock to be making a fool of himself in the Australian outback instead of serving his constituents.
  2. Is some how heartless and doesn’t care that the cost of living crisis is affect nurses.

So, let’s be clear about it.  I don’t think you’ll find much support or sympathy for the former health secretary in living rooms up and down the country.  He’s remembered as being one of the elite guys who thought his own rules didn’t apply to him during the pandemic.  And for some reason, quite a few of the high profile COVID rule breaking cases seemed to be to enable immorality and adultery.  But also, as I’ve already written, Matt Hancock has a first duty to his constituents. He was elected to represent them and he is paid a salary for doing so.  I’ve argued that he should be sanctioned and his constituents should be able to replace him.

I personally think that nurses, along with other public sector workers should be given decent pay rises which recognise that many have experienced pay freezes over the past 10 years due to austerity and are now being hit by high inflation.  There’s also a good pragmatic reason for boosting pay in those areas if we want to recruit good people into them.  Whether that means that the current demand is right is a further question and for the union and employers to come to an agreement on in negotiation.

However, I don’t think nurses should be striking and I suspect a lot of people will share that sentiment.  I think that there should be a national covenant between the country and those in essential frontline services meaning that they don’t use strikes as a bargaining too but are looked after well when it comes to pay and conditions.

The reason that people will feel particularly strongly is that so many are directly affected. There are very few families that don’t know of someone close t them who has been waiting for an operation or consultation about critical treatment and had that operation delayed time and time again.  As we go into winter and the NHS is going to go through its most stretching time of year, a lot of people are feeling anxious that surgery may be cancelled again. Waiting for serious medical treatment is stressful enough as it is without people having their worries added to.

The thing about a strike like this is that the people most likely to be affected by them are not the bosses, nor MPs like Matt Hancock.  They’ll continue to draw their salaries.  They’ll be able to use private medical insurance if they need to.  It will be the more vulnerable and needy in our society that will be hardest hit.

It is encouraging that not every NHS Trust voted for strike action.  It’s also worth remembering and emphasising that often in such cases, the vast majority of the workers whether nurses or teachers are not chewing at the bit to take industrial action and many will prefer to be getting on with their jobs.  We must continue to treat nurses with the respect they deserve and not confuse disagreement with the union with our attitudes to them.

My plea would be that the Unions stand down from Strike Action but also that the Government looks to make a generous pay offer.

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