The Royal College of Nursing has said it could “meet the government halfway” in a pay deal.
The Times reported yesterday that the RCN’s general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen was willing to compromise on its pay demand, which is currently 19%, and could be willing to go down to 10%.
“Do I believe those nurses are entitled? Absolutely, I believe they’re entitled to 19%”
An RCN spokesperson confirmed to Nursing Times that the information in the article is correct.
In an interview with The Times’ Past Imperfect podcast, Ms Cullen said: “There is a rhetoric out there that says the Royal College of Nursing is unrealistic, it’s looking for something that’s totally unachievable, it’s looking for 19%.
“Now, I could sit here all day and tell you nurses’ pay has dropped by 20% over the last decade. Do I believe those nurses are entitled? Absolutely, I believe they’re entitled to 19%.
“But we also understand the economic climate that we’re working in. And what I would say to [the health and social care secretary] Steve Barclay and to the prime minister is get into a room and meet me halfway here and do the decent thing for these nurses.”
The Times then reported that it had “been told that the union could be willing to accept a pay rise of about 10%”.
The pay dispute centres on the below-inflation pay awards given to nurses on Agenda for Change contracts this year, 2022-23, as well as issues surrounding patient safety.
Nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have already been on strike in December and the RCN has scheduled two more strikes dates in England for 18 and 19 January.
Helen Whyley, RCN Wales director, also told BBC Radio Wales this morning that new strike dates would be announced in the country unless the government agreed to negotiate.
She said: “Unfortunately, if we can’t resolve this dispute, then we will be pushed into a position where we have no alternative than to announce further strike action.”
Today the prime minister Rishi Sunak invited unions to discuss the NHS pay award for 2023-24, in the hope to avert upcoming nurse strikes.
In an interview on Sky News, Mr Sunak said: “Yesterday the government wrote to all union leaders inviting them in for talks on Monday.
“We incredibly value the important work that our public sector workers do, especially our nurses, and we want to have an honest, grown-up conversation about what’s affordable [and] what’s responsible for the country.
“Those invitations have gone out and I’m hopeful that those meetings can happen on Monday, so we can have a productive conversation and find a way through this.”
However, Mr Sunak offered no suggestion that the talks on Monday would involve discussions about the pay offer for the current financial year.
When asked if he was willing to meet the RCN “halfway” on pay, as Ms Cullen had proposed, Mr Sunak said: “We’ve always been clear that we want to have a grown-up conversation, a two-way conversation with union leaders.”
He reiterated that this was why the government had proposed talks on Monday with unions.
Responding to this announcement, a Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said: “Like late last year, we will always meet the health secretary to discuss the issues.
“But negotiations about pay for the current year, not next year, are what we need to call off this month’s strike action.”