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Nurses Reject Government Pay Offer And Announce Fresh Strikes

Striking nurses in February 2023 (Alamy)

4 min read

Nurses in England have rejected the government’s offer of a pay rise and will go back out on strike later this month, it has been announced.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing have declined the government’s offer of a 5 per cent pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year, by 54 per cent to 46 per cent. 

There will now be a further 48-hour walk out from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May,  around the first May Bank Holiday, with no exemptions for certain departments. 

In a letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, RCN General Secretaty Pat Cullen said that "what has been offered to date is simply not enough" and urged him to reopen negotiations.

She added: The government needs to increase what has already been offered and we will be highly critical of any move to reduce it.   

“Until there is a significantly improved offer, we are forced back to the picket line. Meetings alone are not sufficient to prevent strike action and I will require an improved offer as soon as possible. In February, you opened negotiations directly with me and I urge you to do the same now."

Responding to the news, a government spokesperson said that is is “hugely disappointing" that the RCN membership had chosen to reject the deal.  

"Following constructive discussions, all parties agreed this was a fair and generous offer which is demonstrated by Unison, representing the largest share of the NHS workforce, choosing to accept it," they added.

It comes after NHS staff with Unison in England voted to accept a one-off payment for last financial year and a pay rise this year (2023/24) by 74 per cent to 26 per cent, on a 53 per cent turn out. 

Unison had recommended that members accept the offer - which will see the staff on the lowest pay receive a rise of up to 10 per cent - and called today for a “whole new approach to setting pay across the NHS.”

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “Clearly health workers would have wanted more, but this was the best that could be achieved through negotiation.

“Over the past few weeks, health workers have weighed up what’s on offer. They’ve opted for the certainty of getting the extra cash in their pockets soon.

“It’s a pity it took several months of strike action before the government would commit to talks. Unions told ministers last summer the £1,400 pay rise wasn’t enough to stop staff leaving the NHS, nor to prevent strikes. 

“But they didn’t want to listen.” 

A government spokesperson said: “The decision by members of Unison, the largest NHS union, to accept the pay offer recommended by their leadership demonstrates that it is a fair and reasonable proposal that can bring this dispute to an end.”

Meanwhile, junior doctors have walked out for four days this week in their own dispute with the government over pay. 

Members of the BMA (British Medical Association) are due to conclude their 96-hour walk out on Saturday morning. Their junior doctor co-chairs wrote to Health Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday asking to meet again, after they said their last meeting was March 22nd. 

Negotiations with ministers so far have faltered after the BMA asked for a 35 per cent rise to account for pay not rising in line with inflation in recent years. 

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