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First Minister admits ‘awkwardness’ over negotiations with striking NHS workers

14 Jan 2023 2 minute read
First minister of Wales Mark Drakeford. Picture by Peter Byrne PA Images

Mark Drakeford has admitted he is finding dealing with the current wave of industrial action involving health workers in Wales uncomfortable.

Nurses and ambulance staff are set to continue striking after unions rejected the Welsh Government’s offer of a one-off payment for its workers following a meeting with health minister Eluned Morgan on Thursday.

After the meeting, Helen Whyley, director of Royal College of Nurses (RCN) Wales, accused the government of “not negotiating seriously on NHS pay”.

“Yet again, the Welsh Government has blamed the UK Government’s lack of additional funding for public services rather than taking responsibility to invest in Welsh nurses delivering Welsh NHS services for Welsh people,” Ms Whyley said.

The government says it is not in a position to offer more money unless it gets further funding from the UK Government and Mr Drakeford has resisted calls to raise income tax in Wales to help fund a pay rise above the inflation rate.

Awkward

The First Minister told the Financial Times he found it awkward to be on the opposite side of the argument on pay with the unions.

“My awkwardness is being a Labour first minister who has worked very hard alongside our trade union colleagues, managing strikes in the past,” he said.

“It is not a comfortable position at all to find ourselves in, when so many of their arguments we believe are powerful.”

Mr Drakeford also explained his resistance to increasing pressure to raise the income tax rate in Wales by 1p, which could raise over £200 million to fund pay increases for NHS workers.

In October Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price argued that lifting income tax would “protect our public services and save lives” and defend Wales from “this Tory onslaught”.

Drakeford told the FT there had been a “genuine debate” about the policy when in September Liz Truss, then UK prime minister, announced a 1p cut in income tax. But after she scrapped the move, he concluded the rise would be unpopular at a time of surging living costs.

“It would be naive to think you could use all that money for nurses because . . . understandably people in other parts of the public service would be looking to have the same,” he concluded.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
14 days ago

Health Minister mentioned once in passing, I suggest a new broom…asap…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
14 days ago

Surely, this is the point at which Mark Drakeford must wake up to the absolute necessity of an independent Wales. Despite his stated position, I believe there is something within him that wants that It’s time he got down off the fence.

Doctor Trousers
14 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

He’s certainly a lot more pragmatic about it than the default position for labour across the rest of Britain, but whatever he may privately think, I don’t think he would change his public position that drastically while still serving as FM. It wouldn’t be unprecedented if he did come out as pro-indy after retirement though, the former Labour Scottish FM Henry MacLeish came out publicly in favour of independence in 2021. Scottish Labour are far more dogmatically, I would say self-destructively, unionist than Welsh Labour. That’s a lesson I hope Welsh Labour are capable of learning from, that sticking doggedly… Read more »

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