Health unions in England are threatening to escalate the strike if there is no move from the government to improve the NHS salary offer for this year, as nurses prepare for new strikes this week.
The Royal College of Nursing said it would announce new strike dates for February before Wednesday, when “tens of thousands” of its members are due to strike at 55 NHS trusts across England that were not part of their previous December action.
The RCN said if there is no progress on wage talks by the end of the month, February strikes will be more than twice as large, involving all eligible members in England.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay is considering a one-off payment for nurses to help with cost-of-living pressures, but the UK Treasury has told him it must be paid from his current administration’s budget.
Barclay told nursing leaders to help identify efficiency savings to find cash to fund a lump sum payment and a future wage increase. His allies said they “totally reject” proposals for a cabinet split on the issue.
More talks are expected this week, but the Treasury’s focus is on addressing NHS wage concerns, primarily through the independent wage review process for the 2023-24 wages round.
In contrast, the RCN halted planned strikes in Scotland after the Scottish government said it would speed up talks on a wage deal for 2023-24 that could then move back to January, effectively giving staff a pay increase for part of the current financial year. we will.
accusing Rishi Sunak of “baffling, reckless and politically ill-advised intransigence,” said Pat Cullen, the RCN’s general secretary.
The GMB union also said it may announce dates next week for a series of further strikes by ambulance staff.
Meanwhile, the strike could spill over into state education, with the National Education Union set to announce on Monday the result of a poll involving some 250,000 teachers and 50,000 support staff across England and Wales.
The NAHT Directors’ Association is also set to announce the ballot result. NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman told The Observer that even if polls fail to set turnout thresholds – as they did last week with teachers union NASUWT – unions may ask their members to vote again if disagreements remain unresolved.
Hopes are growing, however, of progress on one front, with rail bosses closing in on a deal with the RMT union, whose members were among the first to strike in the industrial strike wave now sweeping the UK.
Train company bosses and unions are due to resume talks this week, amid growing optimism that a deal can be reached to end at least some of the strikes that have hampered railways for more than six months.
On Sunday, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said he was optimistic the two sides could reach an agreement. “I hope there will be an agreement, and I’m not going to put an artificial timetable on it…but I think both the companies and the railway unions are keen to get an agreement.
RMT and TSSA unions said last week they were “working jointly” with train companies for a new offer, after ministers allowed the industry to offer a deal of 9 per cent higher wages over two years, linked to reforms to labor practices.
Industry bosses are also optimistic that RMT will again consider a similar payment offer from Network Rail, which was rejected late last year.
But even as hope grows around one part of the rails’ tangled industrial disputes, the union representing train drivers, Aslife, is set to reject on Monday an offer of a separate 8 percent payment over two years from the train companies, raising the possibility that . For more industrial strike.
Aslef’s executive committee, made up of eight train drivers on the service, will meet on Monday to discuss the offer from industry body Rail Delivery Group, but its chairman warned there was “not a single line” in the bid he could support.