Members of the Royal College of Nursing had been due to walk out for 48 hours next Wednesday, the latest in a series of stoppages unprecedented in the union’s 106-year history…reports Asian Lite News
Nurses in England will pause months of strike action over pay after the U.K. government agreed to hold “intensive talks”, both sides said on Tuesday.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) had been due to walk out for 48 hours next Wednesday, the latest in a series of stoppages unprecedented in the union’s 106-year history.
They are part of a wave of U.K. industrial action which has seen workers ranging from paramedics to train drivers to teachers go on strike over the last year amid decades-high inflation.
Nurses and ambulance drivers have even walked out on the same day for the first time.
The government has been refusing to discuss pay levels for the current fiscal year, insisting salaries have already been set for public sector workers by independent pay review bodies.
Ministers also argue that the country, which is grappling with a cost-of-living crisis as inflation remains stubbornly above 10 percent, cannot afford increases at or near these decades-high rates.
But in a joint statement Tuesday with the RCN, the Department of Health and Social Care said the two camps had agreed “to enter a process of intensive talks”.
“Both sides are committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement that recognises the vital role that nurses and nursing play in the National Health Service and the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom,” it said.
“The talks will focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity enhancing reforms.”
The joint statement noted that Health Secretary Steve Barclay will meet with RCN representatives on Wednesday to begin the discussions.
“The Royal College of Nursing will pause strike action during these talks,” it added.
Health staff say wages that have not kept pace with inflation over the past decade, combined with the current cost of living crisis, have left them struggling to pay their bills.
Opinion polls have shown broad public support for the nurses’ plight, with a majority backing their walkouts for better pay.
Govt recommends 3.5% pay rise for nurses
The government has recommended offering millions of public sector workers below inflation pay increases.
Judges, police officers, teachers, nurses doctors and dentists in England will be offered a 3.5% pay increase under proposals.
The recommendations will now be considered by independent pay review bodies.
Public sector workers are holding strike action after rejecting last years pay deal.
Various government departments published their evidence to pay review bodies for the 2023-24 financial year on Tuesday.
Pay review bodies can decide to suggest a higher award but the government will make a final decision.
The government has left room for increases above 3.5% for some workers, if the economic outlook improves, cuts are made elsewhere or borrowing is increased.
The GMB union called the pay offer a “disgrace” which will not prevent ongoing ambulance strikes.
The proposal “shows this government’s true colours”, Rachel Harrison, GMB’s national secretary, said.
“Ambulance workers – and others across the NHS including cleaners, porters and care workers- who are the backbone of the health service deserve better.
“Ministers have no intentions of recognising the true value of the entire workforce.”
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has written to the National Education Union urging it to call off teachers strikes next week across the North of England if it wants to negotiate pay.
NEU joint General Secretary Kevin Courtney said there was “nothing substantial” in the education secretary’s letter and the strikes would go ahead.
But he added: “Our national executive meets on Saturday, they could change that decision.
“There is time for the [Department for Education] to make clear that they will talk about pay rises for this school year and would fund those potential pay rises.
“There is time for them to tell us they are willing to move beyond a 3% pay rise for next September and to fund such pay rises”.
Latest figures show for inflation was 10.1% in January, down from 10.5% in December 2022.
Sara Gorton, head of health at the union Unison, said: “If the government was actively trying to worsen the crisis in the NHS, it couldn’t have done better than this.
“Vacancies are at an all-time high and this pitiful pay suggestion does nothing to solve the growing staffing emergency.”
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