April 24, 2024

Rishi Sunak raised a glimmer of hope over the nursing strikes by saying he was willing to discuss pay, but indicated he would not negotiate over the current deal.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen said she had a “chink of optimism” after noticing a “little shift” in the Prime Minister’s stance on Sunday.

But she warned the planned action will still go ahead without compromise on this year’s pay settlements, as the Unite union accused Mr Sunak of “misleading” the public about the negotiations.

Labour accused him of “taking our nurses and ambulance workers for fools”, with Monday’s talks between unions and Health Secretary Steve Barclay centring on 2023’s deal.

Downing Street declined to deny suggestions that the Prime Minister is open to a one-off payment to support health workers with the cost of living this winter.

Mr Barclay is understood to have advocated for the move but the proposal had faced opposition from elsewhere in Government.

Mr Sunak declined to explicitly rule out negotiations on the current pay settlement as he told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme
the scheduled talks are “really important”.

“When it comes to pay we’ve always said we want to talk about things that are reasonable, that are affordable and responsible for the country,” Mr Sunak said.

“We are about to start a new pay settlement round for this year, we’re about to start that independent process, and before that process starts the Government is keen to sit down with the unions and talk about pay and make sure they understand where we’re coming from.”

Ms Cullen said Monday’s talks are “not going to avert the strike action” in England on January 18 and 19 without compromise on 2022/23 pay.

But she told Kuenssberg: “The Prime Minister talked about coming to the table, now that’s a move for me because I have said, let’s meet half way.”

She added: “When I listened to that there was a chink of optimism and there was a little shift in what the Prime Minister was saying.”

Source uk.style.yahoo.com
Sam Blewett, PA Deputy Political Editor

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