Welsh Government urged to show ‘real leadership’ after teachers and nurses vote for further strike action
Plaid Cymru has called on the Welsh Government to “show real leadership” after both teachers and nurses announced further strike action in Wales from next month.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales has confirmed 12-hour walkouts will take place on 6 and 7 February if talks fail to move forward by the end of January.
Teachers have also voted overwhelmingly for strike in February and March, the National Education Union (NEU) Cymru announced today with strikes scheduled for 1 February and the 15the and 16th of March.
Last Thursday, Government representatives including health minister Eluned Morgan took part in talks with unions to see if they could end the pay row.
Ms Morgan set out her plan to give health workers a lump sum but union bosses said the cash payment was “not enough” to address real problems caused by sub-inflation wages. The proposed amount has not been disclosed.
The RCN, in its statement on Monday, said the value of salaries for experienced nurses was 20% lower in real terms due to below-inflation pay awards since 2010.
On Monday evening, the NEU Cymru said teacher members voted overwhelmingly for strike action. Some 92.28% of teacher members voted yes on a turnout of 58.1%.
The union declared four days of strike action in February and March in Wales, with the first on February 1 affecting around 1,500 workplaces in the country.
In a ballot of support staff, 88.26% voted for strike action on a turnout of 51.3%.
David Evans, Wales Secretary of the NEU Cymru, said the union will meet education minister Jeremy Miles in the coming days.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for children and young people Heledd Fychan MS said that her party stood in “absolute solidarity” with all teachers and support staff and called the decision to strike for fairer pay “brave”.
Ms Fychan said the issue of recruitment and retention had existed long before the pandemic and the current economic crisis and urged the Labour Government to show teachers they were valued by offering a fairer pay settlement.
The Plaid Cymru Senedd Member said Labour had the cash to offer both nurses and teachers an improved pay offer through unallocated funding and reserve funds.
Last week, Plaid Cymru said that a pay offer of 8% to Welsh NHS nurses was possible using existing reserves and unallocated funding.
The party said the same was true of an improved pay offer for teachers.
Russell George MS, shadow health minister for the Welsh Conservatives, called on the Welsh Government to engage in “meaningful discussions with nurses”.
“A solution to this dispute will only come through negotiation and it won’t be easy, but if Labour does not even have the humility to do this properly then they give nurses no dignity,” Mr George said.
“Without resolution, the Labour-run Welsh NHS will never work for patients or staff and we will continue to see performance decline below where we are now, with the slowest ambulance response times on record and Britain’s longest waiting list and worst A&E waits.”
The current pay offer from the Welsh government provides around 4.8% uplift on average for NHS staff and approximately 5% for teachers. To arrive at an 8% initial offer would require an extra £176m and £27m respectively in the current financial year.
Plaid Cymru says that the money could come from a combination of the £152.3m of currently unallocated funding in the Welsh Government’s budget, and a draw down from the Wales Reserve in addition to any projected under-spends in current departmental budgets.
Plaid Cymru spokesperson for children and young people Heledd Fychan MS said: “Just like our NHS, the crisis in recruitment and retention of teachers existed long before the pandemic and cost of living crisis. It’s why in Plaid Cymru’s last Senedd election manifesto we said we would address this by not only making funding available to recruit more teachers but improving the offer for those already in the profession.
“So, if the Welsh Government is serious about retaining teachers and recruiting new ones – and if we are to fully realise the aspirations of the new curriculum, as well as additional learning needs and Welsh language provision – then they need to show our teachers they value them – that begins with fairer pay.
“This Labour Government have the cash at hand to make an improved pay offer to both nurses and teachers through unallocated funding and reserves. It’s high time they show some real leadership on public sector pay disputes, enter genuine negotiations, and offer a fairer pay offer.
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I’m not sure they are capable of showing leadership, in fact they have all but admitted they don’t have the stomach for the job…