Westminster accused of ‘punishing’ nurses in England after new pay deal offered in Wales
The UK Government has been accused of “punishing” nurses in England as Welsh and Scottish Government’s come to the table with new pay deals amid the ongoing industrial action.
The NHS is preparing for further disruption to services this week as nurses, ambulance staff and physiotherapists walk out again in their bitter dispute over pay.
Monday saw the largest strike in NHS history as tens of thousands of workers in England staged walkouts, including members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) alongside GMB and Unite paramedics, call handlers and other staff at ambulance trusts.
More upheaval is expected on Tuesday as nurses continue their strike action.
Union leaders have implored ministers to act to prevent further strike action, but ministers in England have indicated that they will not budge.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “No Health Secretary and no Business Secretary were there to answer urgent questions in Parliament today – and no response from the Prime Minister after I wrote to him this weekend.
“People may wonder if the Government is also on strike.
“In Parliament today, we heard more of the same from a Government whose most senior figures seem to be missing in action.
“The Westminster Government is punishing England’s nurses and looking increasingly isolated as the Welsh and Scottish governments come to the table.”
Health minister Will Quince, who responded on Mr Barclay’s behalf, said Mr Barclay was attending a Cobra meeting so could not be in the House of Commons to answer urgent questions.
The Government has been warned of a “constant cycle” of strikes until the issue has been resolved.
Nurses are set to strike at 73 trusts in England, up from 55 during January’s strike days and 44 in December.
Ambulance crews and call handlers were returning to work on Tuesday but are due to walk out again on Friday, while physiotherapists are set to strike on Thursday.
Unions in Wales largely suspended similar action after the Welsh Government came forward with an improved pay offer on Friday.
Ms Cordery urged the Government to negotiate with unions on 2022/23 pay.
“I hope it ends by the Government coming around the table to negotiate a settlement for this year’s pay for NHS staff,” she said.
“I think that we need to recognise that NHS staff have faced soaring costs, cost of living has gone up, inflation has gone up, and the settlement from this year’s pay review body was made at a time when inflation wasn’t at the levels it’s at at the moment.
“So I think it’s really important that we focus on getting a deal for this year, as well as then thinking about what next year’s pay deal looks like.”
But during a visit to Kingston Hospital in south-west London on Monday, Health Secretary Steve Barclay appeared to rule out negotiations.
“We have been discussing this coming year, from April, pay with the unions,” he said.
“We have this process through the pay review body; it’s an independent process and we’re keen to get the evidence so that that reflects the pressure that the NHS has been under and the wider context in terms of inflation.
“I don’t think it’s right to go back to last year, to last April, retrospectively. We should be looking forward to the pay review body that is taking evidence now and working constructively with the trade unions.”
He added: “It’s right to recognise that there’s been ongoing pressures on the NHS and inflation has been higher since last year’s pay review body process than was originally forecast in the Spending Review 2021.”
Meanwhile, asked whether unions should “give up hope” of negotiating on 2022/23 pay, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman said: “I think we would say we want to keep talking about ways forward.
“We think it is right to focus on this year’s pay and not look backwards. As the minister said this morning, our door remains open.”
Ms Cullen said: “They (nurses) are trying to bring their NHS back from the brink and they will continue to do this for as long as this Government takes to listen to them.”
Speaking at a picket line outside St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, west London, on Monday, Ms Cullen added: “We are in a situation today where this Government has chosen to punish the nurses of England instead of getting round a table and talking to me about pay in the same way as they’ve done in Wales and Scotland.”
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, said the Government should open negotiations on pay or face a “constant cycle” of walkouts.
On 2022/23 pay, Ms Graham added: “They can’t just always sing ‘la la la la la’ and hope that the year goes by and we will forget what’s happened. This year’s pay needs to be addressed.”
The pay offer put on the table by the Welsh Government on Friday comprised of an additional 3% pay increase, of which 1.5% would be consolidated.
The Welsh Government urged health unions to accept the new pay deal for staff, calling it “the only deal in town”.
But further strikes were announced on Monday by Unite for Welsh ambulance workers in an escalation of the industrial action.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “I have visited Ambulance Service picket lines in Wales today and our members are telling me loud and clear that the new pay offer from Welsh Government is not acceptable.
“Unite is therefore escalating its industrial action.
“Without a decent consolidated pay rise, the staffing exodus afflicting NHS Wales will continue, and so will the current crisis”.
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The abusive party; the whole country should become a battered nation’s refuge safe house to protect us from these monsters…
The King of England must live in a Palace without windows and full of mirrors so as not to see the cruelty and suffering that is being handed out in His Name…
They seem to have adopted the personality disorder, in the strictest medical sense, of NPD as a political and philosophical creed. (rather distressingly, the definition of “creed” delivered first by a Google, includes the example “not everyone follows a creed of acceptance and understanding” which is hauntingly accurate of the Toryscumgangsters* and also quite telling when we consider it is The Oxford Dictionaries choice example of the word in use.)
*”Toryscumganster” accurate adjective for the creatures that currently infest Westminster and thus cause our ruination.
To be fair, they are only being accused of that because that is exactly what they are doing.
We need a G.E. now.
Jeremy Hunt says focus on the ‘economically inactive’; lower than a snake’s belly this one!