Welsh Labour MP to join nurses picket line in Wales
A Welsh Labour MP has said that she intends to join a nurses’ strike picket line in Wales next week, despite health being a devolved matter for the Labour Welsh Government.
Cynon Valley MP Beth Winter however said that pay rises for nurses in Wales was dependent on the extra funding the Welsh Government would receive as a result of a pay rise being given to nurses in England by the UK Government.
She said that nurses involved in industrial action today and on the 20th of December were striking not only for pay, but also because they want to protect the NHS.
Writing in a letter to the UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, Beth Winter said that “It shames us all that there are nurses in this country living in poverty” and that nurses are striking “to protect patients from receiving unsafe care, in an understaffed and underfunded health service”.
The letter said a pay rise for Welsh health workers is “reliant upon” fair funding for Wales and calls on Hunt to make resources available for an inflation-proofed pay rise for health care workers in England, which would enable Welsh Government to deliver an inflation proofed pay rise for health workers in Wales.
The letter quoted Mark Drakeford who previously said that he felt public sector workers should receive pay rises that “at least match inflation” but that “we are tied entirely by the decisions that are made… in Westminster”.
Beth Winter added, “In my experience, nurses are not greedy people. They are striking to protect patients, and protect the NHS after 12 years of austerity measures imposed by the UK Tory government have taken their toll on the organisation.”
She added that “Wales has suffered from years of underfunding and urgently requires a needs based fair funding settlement from UK government.”
“Over the past few years, our nurses have more than earned an inflation-proofed pay rise, and UK Government have the power, and the resources to make that happen. That’s why I will be standing with nurses on the picket lines this week.”
Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday, Wale’ First Minister said that it was not in the NHS’ best interests to take money out of it and divert it to nurses’ pay.
He was responding to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price who said that it was “shocking” that Labour are attacking the Conservatives at Westminster for not talking to unions over nurses’ pay while doing the same in Wales.
“The difference between us is not philosophical at all—it’s simply practical,” Mark Drakeford responded.
“He wants to take £120 million out of activity that the NHS in Wales is committed to undertake, and would use that money to pay people. That’s a practical choice; our choice has had to be different because we see the enormous pressures that the NHS faces every single day.
“Now, I repeat what I said: all disputes in the end by negotiation. I urge the Westminster Government to negotiate in a way that allows us in Wales to be able to do what we would wish to do, and that is to make sure that the people who carry out those front-line services, the things we rely on all the time, are properly rewarded for their service.
“We’ve had it dreamed up on both sides of the Chamber this afternoon, magical solutions that say that somehow we are in a position in Wales to do something unique that isn’t available across the border.”
Eluned Morgan, the Minister for Health and Social Services, said today: “We believe all public sector workers should be fairly rewarded for the important work they do.
“The strikes which begin today will inevitably have a significant impact on NHS services. But we recognise the strength of feeling among staff, which the difficult decision to vote for industrial action reflects.
“While we were unable to avert this week’s industrial action, all partners have agreed to keep talking and continue to work together. We will work continue to bring together trade unions, employers and government to deliver the best possible outcomes for workers within the funding we have available.”
Midwives and maternity support staff have became the latest NHS workers in Wales to vote to take industrial action over pay.
Members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) voted by more than 9-1 in favour of strikes and other forms of industrial action on a turnout of 55.39% as the results of a ballot were published on Tuesday.
Julie Richards, director for Wales at the RCM, said midwives and maternity support workers (MSWs) in Wales were “exhausted”, adding: “The disappointing and unacceptable 4% pay offer simply reinforced their feelings of being overlooked and undervalued.
“Taking industrial action is always a last resort, and the decision taken by our members today shows just how desperate they are for policy makers to listen.”
Physiotherapists in Wales also voted overwhelmingly to strike in their first ever ballot on pay, the result of which was published yesterday.
Turnout was 63%, with 89% voting yes to strike action and 94% yes to action short of strike.
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