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  • NEW poll shows three in five patients support striking health workers and majority of parents support teachers taking strike action

  • TUC says polling shows patients and parents see right through government’s “divide and rule tactics”

Patients with health conditions overwhelmingly support key workers in the NHS going on strike to defend their pay and living standards, according to new polling published by the TUC today (Thursday).

The polling – conducted by YouGov for the TUC – shows that more than three in five (61%) of those diagnosed with a health condition support workers taking strike action in the NHS.

Nurses, paramedics, ambulance staff, and physiotherapists are all striking for a decent pay rise – with more strikes on the table as government continues to refuse to meaningfully negotiate with unions on pay.

The polling also shows that the majority of parents (53%) support teachers striking.

Teachers are set to strike in England and Wales for a decent pay rise, after NEU members overwhelmingly voted for strike action.

Decade of pay loss

The TUC says the large-scale support for striking workers amongst patients and parents shows that they “see right through the government’s divide-and-rule tactics”.

The union body adds that the support also shows they recognise that the key workers who got Britain through the pandemic are “owed a decent pay rise”.

Key workers in the public sector have faced more than a decade of collapsing earnings, as successive Conservative-led governments have held down their pay year on year.

  • Nurses have lost £42,000 in real earnings since 2008 – the equivalent of £3,000 a year.
  • Midwives have lost £56,000 – the equivalent of £4,000 a year.
  • Paramedics have lost £56,000 – the equivalent of £4,000 a year.

In the education sector, teachers and school leaders have lost around a quarter of their pay since 2010 according to separate analysis by the NEU, NASUWT and NAHT.

Striking workers forced to take action

The TUC warns that striking workers have been ”left with no choice” and “forced to take action” after more than a decade of pay cuts.

The Conservatives’ decision to hold down public sector pay has left workers “hugely exposed to the cost of living crisis” and deepened the staffing crisis in the NHS, education and other public services.

TUC polling published in October revealed that one in three public sector workers are actively considering quitting or have already taken steps to do so.

The latest NHS data shows that NHS England is operating short of almost 130,000 staff due to unfilled vacancies. This represents a vacancy rate of 9.7%.

In the education sector, one in eight newly qualified teachers (NQTs) leave the profession after one year in the job, with almost one-third of NQTs (31%) leaving within their first five years. 

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Key workers in the public sector helped get the country through the pandemic.

“But many are now being forced to take action to defend their living standards as ministers continue to refuse meaningful talks with unions on public sector pay.

“This polling shows that patients and parents see right through the divide and rule tactics of this Conservative government.

“These are people that really rely on our public services – they know all too well the damage done by year on year pay cuts.

“They are fed up with ministers stonewalling negotiations – and they think that workers across the public sector are owed a decent pay rise.

“After years of brutal pay cuts, nurses, teachers and millions of other public servants have seen their living standards decimated – and are set to face more pay misery.

“And as well as holding down public sector worker pay – the government is now attacking their fundamental right to strike.

“It is little wonder morale is through the floor and many key workers are considering leaving their jobs for good.

“It’s time this Conservative government listened to patients, parents and the rest of the British public.

“Ministers must give workers across the public sector the pay rise they deserve and stop their damaging attacks on the right to strike.”

Editors note

- About the polling: The polling was carried out for the TUC by YouGov. The fieldwork was carried out 16-19 December 2022 and 1,758 adults in the GB were surveyed. For more information please visit:

- NHS pay cuts methodology: For losses in pay for NHS workers, the top of the NHS pay scales have been used, as well as CPI with a base year of 2022. The projection for the real terms loss in pay for a public sector worker is based on the Institute for Fiscal Studies assumption that the average public sector pay award will be 3%. It also uses the Office for Budget Responsibility’s forecast for CPI inflation, and ONS figures for average weekly total pay (seasonally adjusted) of public sector workers.

- NQTs leaving the profession: Data is from the House of Commons library 2022: Teacher recruitment and retention in England (

- About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.


TUC press office  
020 7467 1248 

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