UK nurses to start strike next month, minister calls wage demands ‘out of reach’

UK nurses are set to go on a nationwide strike next month in what will be the biggest industrial action in the history of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will go on strike nationwide for the first time on 15th and 20th December after the British government turned down an offer of formal and detailed negotiations in lieu of industrial action on 25th November. announced.

Strikes will take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, the RCN has suspended strike announcements after local government resumed NHS wage negotiations.

The RCN urged Health Secretary Steve Berkley to “stop the spin and start talking” with nurses to avoid a strike, accusing the union of “choosing to strike rather than talk”.

Barclay says the nursing union’s demands, which will cost £10bn ($12bn) a year at a 19.2% wage increase, are “not affordable”.

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UK Health Secretary Steve Barkley arrives ahead of a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London, November 22, 2022. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Media)

Nurse says ‘enough is enough’

The RCN announced on 9 November that a majority of nurses in the NHS trust and health board had voted to strike over a wage dispute.

Experienced nurses are at a 20% disadvantage in real terms due to a series of under-inflation awards since 2010, despite a pay raise of around £1,400 ($1,700) in the summer, according to the union. There is

RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen said:

“My offer of formal negotiations was turned down and the ministers chose to strike instead. They have the power and the means to stop this by holding serious talks to address our dispute.

“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, of being underpaid, of being unsafely staffed and of being unable to provide the care patients deserve.”

For months, health unions have warned that low wages and low morale are causing workers to quit en masse, leading to staff shortages in hospitals and other parts of the NHS.

United Kingdom PPE MHS
A nurse changes PPE in Ward 5, the COVID Red ward, of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Scotland, 27 January 2021. (Jane Barlow/PA)

‘Challenging times’

Responding to the RCN’s decision, Secretary of Health and Human Services Steve Barclay said:

“These are difficult times for everyone and the economic climate, with wage increases of 19.2% in current figures, means that the RCN demands, which cost £10bn a year, are not affordable.

“In addition to our record funding to date, we are prioritizing the NHS with an additional £6.6bn and an independent NHS pay raise to give nurses at least £1,400 a fair raise this year. accepted the recommendations of the , which means that newly qualified nurses typically earn over £31,000 a year, while older nurses earn much more You will also receive pension contributions equal to 20% of

“Our priority is to keep patients safe.

The main opposition Labor Party has accused the Conservative government of “refusing to negotiate” with nursing unions.

Wes Streeting, Labor’s unsung secretary of health, said: Patients are already unable to get treatment on time and strike action is the last thing they need but the government is making this happen.Patients will never forgive the Conservatives for this negligence. I guess. “

“Door remains open”

Both the government and the RCN claimed the door was open for negotiations.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he has “great respect” for nurses, but the pay increases demanded by the union are “clearly out of reach”.

“I’m happy that the health secretary is sitting down and talking to the union,” he told the station.

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Prime Minister Rishi Snak leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the prime minister’s question in the House of Commons in London on November 2, 2022. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Barclay wrote on Twitter:

However, RCN England director Patricia Marquis said Barclay would not discuss “what needs to be discussed: wages and safe staffing”.

She told ITV: So unless he’s ready to tell us what we’re arguing about, his door is closed.

Downing Street claimed that ministers were aligned with unions, but added that “NHS nurse salaries are an independent process”.

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Chan