Let’s wrap up a deal by Christmas: Nurses leader is prepared to reach agreement on pay… but warns there could be further strikes in New Year without more talks
- Pat Cullen did not rule out accepting a one-off payment to reach a deal on pay
- The nurses’ union leader said it was up to Rishi Sunak to discuss an agreement
- Downing Street said there are no plans for the Prime Minister to get involved
- She warned there could be further strikes in New Year without more action
The leader of the nurses’ union yesterday indicated she was prepared to reach a deal on pay – but threatened fresh walkouts in the New Year unless ministers hold wage talks with her.
Pat Cullen did not rule out accepting a one-off payment to resolve the dispute and suggested she was also prepared to budge on her demand for a 19 per cent pay rise.
But the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it was up to Rishi Sunak to sit down with her and hammer out an agreement – something he has refused to do, insisting that this year’s offer was made by an independent body and cannot be changed.
The nursing strike was not even discussed at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, Downing Street said, and there are no plans for the Prime Minister to get involved in the negotiations, making further action by nurses likely in January. On the second day of strikes yesterday, Ms Cullen told Sky News: ‘Rishi Sunak is under growing pressure in Westminster following last Thursday’s strike and he should listen to people around him.
The leader of the nurses’ union, Pat Cullen, yesterday indicated she was prepared to reach a deal on pay, but threatened fresh walkouts in January if Ministers do not act soon
‘Let’s get this wrapped up by Christmas. I will negotiate with him at any point to stop nursing staff and patients going into the New Year facing such uncertainty.
‘But if this Government isn’t prepared to do the right thing, we’ll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable.’ In a separate interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, she was asked if the RCN would accept a 7.5 per cent pay rise as unions in Scotland have done.
Ms Cullen replied: ‘Let’s get into a room and start to discuss and have talks about where we go with this. I won’t dig in if they won’t dig in.’ Asked if she was prepared to lower the demand for a 19 per cent rise, which the Government insists is unaffordable, she said: ‘It would be really, really important before Christmas that the Government get into a room and start to have those discussions.’
Pat Cullen said: ‘If this Government isn’t prepared to do the right thing, we’ll have no choice but to continue in January and that will be deeply regrettable’
Speaking from a picket line in Newcastle, the general secretary was asked if her members would accept a one-off winter payment. Ms Cullen said nurses did not want ‘quick fixes’ and went on: ‘That’s for us to discuss in a room, not on the airwaves.’ Health minister Will Quince claimed his and the Health Secretary Steve Barclay’s doors are open for discussions about patient safety and working conditions.
But he went on: ‘What we are not willing to negotiate is reopening the pay for this year, which is part of the independent pay review body recommendations, which the Government accepted in full.’
Mr Quince told Sky News that ‘we are three-quarters of the way through the year’ and the pay review bodies are already looking at recommendations for the next financial year starting in April.
And Business Secretary Grant Shapps insisted: ‘I have absolutely no doubt at all that most people feel, like you and me and your viewers watching, that our nurses do a phenomenal job and we want to see them paid more – and indeed there’s a pay offer on the table to pay them more.
We haven’t tried to skimp on what the independent review body has recommended for nurses.’
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