The new general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for an “urgent meeting” with the prime minister to resolve disputes over the pay of nurses and other public sector workers.
Paul Nowak, who started in post this month, urged Rishi Sunak to allow ministers to “adopt new approaches” in dealing with the dispute and open negotiations on pay, in a letter sent today.
Separately, Mr Sunak has this afternoon used his latest speech as prime minister to address the issue of nurse strikes.
He claimed the government wanted “a reasonable dialogue” with unions “about what is responsible and fair for our country”.
“In the coming days we will update you on the government’s next steps,” he added.
However, Mr Sunak also once again claimed that the ask from the Royal College of Nursing for a 19% rise was “not affordable”.
Thousands of nurses took to the picket lines before Christmas as part of the ongoing row over pay between unions and the government. Ambulance workers also walked out last month.
The RCN has recently announced that following the government’s failure so far to negotiate on pay, nurses in England will strike again for two back-to-back dates in January.
In his letter today, seen by Nursing Times, Mr Nowak said to the prime minister: “Our public services are in crisis after years of underfunding and understaffing.
“We can’t solve these problems without a fair deal for the people on the frontline.”
“We can’t solve these problems without a fair deal for the people on the frontline”
He highlighted the need for “open and constructive” talks about improving public sector pay, and reiterated that so far, ministers “have refused to negotiate directly about pay with unions”.
“Unions have already made clear their willingness to sit down with the government and talk about boosting pay,” added Mr Nowak.
“But while your ministers continue to refuse point blank to discuss improving wages, there can be no resolution.”
He said: “I urge with you to meet with us as soon as possible and allow your ministers to adopt new approaches to resolving the public sector pay disputes.”
Most NHS nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have been handed a £1,400 pay increase for 2022-23, in line with recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body.
However, this is much lower than the inflation-busting pay rises that unions have been calling for.
In response to the TUC’s letter, a spokesperson for the prime minister said: “We’ve talked about how we want to make sure we get the balance right when it comes to wanting to properly reward public sector workers and ensuring that is fair across the board to all taxpayers and the majority of whom don’t work in the public sector.”
They added that the government “don’t think double digit pay rises are affordable which is why we thought it was right to accept the recommendation of the independent pay review”.
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