Nursing strikes are set to go ahead as planned on Thursday after talks to avert the upcoming industrial action failed. Pat Cullen, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), met with the health secretary on Monday (December 12) but said he had “refused” to discuss pay.
The union boss said: “I needed to come out of this meeting with something serious to show nurses why they should not strike this week. Regrettably, they are not getting an extra penny.”
The RCN is calling for a pay rise of 19.2% but ministers have deemed this amount unaffordable. A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the health secretary had told Ms Cullen that any further pay increase would mean taking money away from frontline services and tackling the post-pandemic backlog.
Ms Cullen said she was “extremely disappointed at the belligerence shown” in her meeting with the health secretary, as pay was “fundamental” to the dispute and not discussing it was “nothing short of being disrespectful to our profession.”
The union leader had previously indicated that the nursing strikes could be paused if the government were willing to “seriously” negotiate a pay rise, and said she had been “optimistic” ahead of her meeting with the health secretary. But she later said: “[The government] closed their books and walked away from the nursing profession this afternoon.”
The nursing strikes come at a time of planned industrial action across a myriad of UK sectors. Paramedics are also planning to stage a walkout this winter, along with postal workers, firefighters, driving instructors, bus operators, airport baggage handlers and Border Force agents.
When will the nursing strikes take place?
The nursing strikes are set to take place on December 15 and December 20, with RCN members in England, Wales and Northern Ireland all set to take part across a number of hospital trusts.
Two major NHS unions, Unite and Unison, called off strike action in Scotland after members voted to accept an improved pay offer averaging 7.5%.