Well being unions and the federal government remained deadlocked of their dispute over NHS staff’ calls for for increased pay after ministers made clear they’d not reopen the wage settlement in England for 2022-23.
As as much as 40,000 nurses and ambulance staff in England and Wales walked out on the largest day of strike motion within the well being service’s historical past, well being minister Maria Caulfield mentioned “above-inflation pay rises” would gasoline the issue of rising costs.
Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, is contending with the biggest wave of strikes in the private and non-private sectors in a long time, with staff pushing for increased pay amid the price of residing disaster.
However after ministers made conciliatory noises to well being unions in January, hinting they could reopen the pay settlement for NHS staff in England for the present monetary 12 months, they’ve since hardened their place.
The thought of a £1,000 one-off cost for NHS workers, floated by well being secretary Steve Barclay, was blocked by the Treasury. Downing Avenue didn’t deny that ministers had not held any severe talks with well being unions in latest weeks.
Challenged on whether or not the federal government can be prepared to the reopen the pay settlement for NHS workers in 2022-23, Caulfield raised the difficulty of constraints posed by affordability.
“The secretary of state [for health] and the PM have been clear that that will be extraordinarily troublesome to do as a result of it wouldn’t simply be for nurses . . . There are a selection of public sector staff who would additionally need the identical request and throughout the board you’re speaking about billions of kilos to pay for that,” she mentioned.
The federal government has as an alternative pressed unions to have interaction in discussions about proof to be submitted to impartial evaluate our bodies concerning the pay awards for NHS workers in 2023-24.
However Sara Gorton, head of well being for the union Unison, mentioned NHS staff had been on strike to enhance pay and staffing in 2022-23. “Speaking concerning the wage rise they’re due in April gained’t finish the dispute,” she added.
The GMB union indicated it was prepared to satisfy Barclay for talks, however provided that the pay settlement for 2022-23 was on the desk.
Pat Cullen, Royal Faculty of Nursing basic secretary, accused the UK authorities of “punishing England’s nurses”, when the Welsh and Scottish administrations had been prepared to barter on pay for the present monetary 12 months. She urged Sunak to “negotiate and halt this motion now”.
The Welsh authorities’s provide on Friday of improved pay for NHS staff in Wales for 2022-23 prompted the RCN and the GMB, which represents ambulance staff, to name off strikes scheduled for Monday within the principality. Unite, one other union representing ambulance staff, proceeded with walkouts.
Sunak’s reluctance to offer floor to the well being unions dangers costing him politically: a YouGov survey on the finish of January prompt about two-thirds of the general public nonetheless supported strikes by NHS staff.
In affirmation that the NHS strikes pose a selected drawback for ministers, the identical YouGov ballot discovered extra folks opposed than supported strikes in different sectors, together with rail.
NHS insiders mentioned the temper appeared to be hardening amongst ministers and unions.
The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations throughout the sector, warned that the well being service’s skill to satisfy a authorities goal to make sure that by the beginning of April all sufferers ready 18 months or extra for non-emergency surgical procedure would have been handled, was now hanging within the stability due to strikes.