According to the dean of the Royal College of Nursing, a strike of nurses scheduled to begin next week could be averted if the health secretary negotiates “seriously” about compensation.
“I won’t dig in if he doesn’t,” said general secretary Pat Cullen on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg. As per BBC, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly stated that compensation is an issue for non-political, independent assessment agencies.
On the 15th and 20th of December, strikes will occur in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In October, the RPI inflation rate was 14.2%, hence the RCN union is requesting a wage increase of 5% over that figure.
The government has previously promised average pay rises of 4.5 percent for doctors and 4.75 percent for other NHS personnel, including nurses, in England for the upcoming year. The Ministers agreed to this after receiving a recommendation from the independent pay review organizations that provide suggestions for NHS wage increases.
Ms. Cullen wanted the health secretary to negotiate with her directly or through Acas, the independent organization that handles conflicts between employers and employees, by Monday morning.
She stated that the union would not be “found wanting” in the negotiations, but that its position remained unchanged. Ms. Cullen responded, “Come to the table and let’s have a talk” when asked if the union would accept a lower pay raise.
She stated that it was her top aim to ensure that nurses could “make ends meet,” adding, “It’s not about stuffing their wallets with gold.”
Mr. Cleverly noted that Health Secretary Steve Barclay had already met with union representatives, but he added: “Salary talks are ultimately conducted between union leaders on behalf of their members and the employer. The NHS is the employer of the nurses in this scenario.”
Prof. Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, stated that the independent review committee and the government were responsible for compensation.
He stated that emergency services and essential treatments such as kidney dialysis and chemotherapy would continue during the walkouts, although there would be disruptions in service.
During a strike, life-saving care must be administered in accordance with labor laws. Prof. Powis stated that there was “trouble developing this winter” for the NHS, citing a rise in A&E visits and the number of hospital patients with influenza. Both Mr. Cleverly and Prof. Powis stated that the NHS was prepared for the strike and intended to minimize inconvenience.
The Scottish government upped its offer to nurses and other health workers to a minimum of £2,205, with certain staff receiving more – an increase equivalent to an average of 7.5%. The public service employees’ union, Unison, has supported the offer to its members in Scotland, and discussions other unions are ongoing.
Christina McAnea, general secretary of Unison, stated that if Mr. Barclay were to adopt the same stance as Holyrood and commit to increasing wages this year, “the possibility of pre-Christmas strikes may be averted.”
The Department of Health and Social Care stated that the government accepted the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body in full, meaning freshly qualified nurses earned a 5.5% raise and those with the lowest earnings, such as porters and cleaners, received a 9.3% increase.
A representative for the government added, “Ministers have held productive discussions with unions, such as the RCN and Unison, on how to make the NHS a better place to work, and the door remains open for more discussions.”