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Nurses to strike after minister refuses to discuss wages at crunch meeting

Nurses to strike after minister refuses to discuss wages at crunch meeting

Nurses are set to go on strike after the Government “closed their books and walked away” during a crunch meeting with union bosses.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen has said Health Secretary Steve Barclay refused to discuss pay with her, with strikes now set to begin on Thursday.

In a statement, she said: “The Government was true to its word - they would not talk to me about pay.

“I needed to come out of this meeting with something serious to show nurses why they should not strike this week. Regrettably, they are not getting an extra penny.

“Ministers had too little to say and I had to speak at length about the unprecedented strength of feeling in the profession.I expressed my deep disappointment at the belligerence - they have closed their books and walked away.”

The union is demanding a pay rise of 5% above the RPI rate of inflation, which was 14.2% in October, but Ms Cullen has hinted that she could compromise if the Government negotiates on pay.

Mr Barclay has been sticking with the independent pay review body’s recommendation of a £1,400 raise.

He was under increasing pressure to settle a deal after strikes by ambulance staff and some NHS workers in Scotland were called off after members of two unions voted to accept the Scottish Government’s recent pay deal.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said Mr Barclay "again listened to the RCN's position on pay and reiterated the Government has agreed to the recommendations of the independent pay review body".

"He said that any further pay increase would mean taking money away from frontline services and reducing the 7.2 million elective backlog.

"Mr Barclay said he would continue to engage with the RCN as we move into the pay review process for next year and on non-pay related issues."

A wave of strikes by nurses, paramedics, rail workers and Border Force staff this month is expected to cause mass disruption, with thousands of NHS operations and appointments cancelled.

The military and civil servants are likely to be brought in to cover Border Force staff while armed forces will also be deployed to hospital trusts ahead of an ambulance worker strike on December 21.

Labour’s shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, accused Mr Barclay of “spoiling for a fight”.

He said: “They want to blame nurses, blame paramedics, blame NHS staff for challenges in the National Health Service which are the direct fault and responsibility of 12 years of Conservative mismanagement – frankly, I think it’s disgusting.”
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