There is no more money to avoid nurses strike, Welsh Government says
There is no money to increase a pay offer to NHS staff in order to avert industrial action in Wales without UK Government intervention, the Welsh health minister has said.
Eluned Morgan, the Welsh Government health and social services minister, told the Senedd she was “saddened” by the prospect of industrial action but without investment from Westminster the pay offer could not be increased.
Nurses voted to strike after the Welsh Government offered them pay awards between 4% and 5.5%, well below the rate of inflation and the same as that by the UK Government in England.
“There is simply no money to increase our pay offer without substantial cuts to staffing and essential services,” Ms Morgan told Plenary.
“I’m meeting with representatives of all healthcare unions next week to explore if there is any possibility or alternative that might help us to avoid industrial action.”
Plaid Cymru MS Rhun ap Iorwerth said that while pay was central to the disputes in the Welsh NHS, he suggested health staff had not been supported by both Westminster and the Labour administration in Cardiff.
“Both the UK Conservative and Welsh Labour Governments have to take a long, hard look at themselves to realise that opportunities have been lost time and time again to show that support,” he said.
“I’m asking the Minister again: when is she going to negotiate? We have a Labour Government refusing to negotiate with trade unions.
“What we need to see is the opening of meaningful negotiations to try to avert the strikes.”
‘Cut the cloth’
In response, Ms Morgan said there was an independent pay commission which made recommendations for NHS staff.
“The fact is we’ve got a set amount of money. We’ve got a choice. You either cut services or you cut the number of people in order to give a pay rise,” she said.
“I think we’ve got to be absolutely clear here: there is no more money.
“I understand we’re in a different place because inflation is very, very different from what it’s been in the past.
“I completely understand why these workers are upset. It’s not just about one group of workers, this is about all of the workers in the NHS.”
Russell George, Welsh Conservative health spokesman, said the minister was seeking to blame Westminster rather than accept responsibility noted the Scottish Government had made a new offer.
“Frustratingly, you still point the finger to Westminster rather than take responsibility for your actions here,” he said.
“Now, this is your decision, they’re your responsibilities. You’ve got to cut the cloth here as you see fit here.
“We’ve got 3,000 nurse vacancies, and a spend on agency nurses of £140 million. Well, that’s due to your management of the NHS and your predecessors.
“You had an additional £1.2 billion in the autumn statement. Now, the Scottish Government have offered band 5 nurses an 8.7% pay award, which has paused strike action in Scotland.
“If the Scottish Government can get around the negotiation table and make an offer, why can’t you?”
Ms Morgan said the Scottish Government had a different system for making pay awards than Wales.
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