Photo: Peter Byrne/PA
The Royal College of Nursing may be willing to accept a 10% pay rise and the union leader has urged the government to meet it “halfway”.
Pat Cullen, the union’s general secretary, said the RCN’s demand for a 19% pay rise – called “unachievable” by the government – was only a “starting point”.
It has pledged to put any new bid to a vote by its members, the Times reported. However, the PA news agency reported that the union may be willing to accept a wage increase of around 10%.
In an interview with the Times’ Past Imperfect podcast, Cullen said: “There’s rhetoric that the Royal College of Nursing is unrealistic, it’s looking for something that’s totally unattainable, it’s looking for 19%.
“I could sit here all day and say that nurses’ salaries have fallen by 20% in the last decade. Do I think these nurses have the right? Of course, I believe they are entitled to 19%.
“But we also understand the economic climate in which we work. And what would I say [health secretary] Steve Barclay and the Prime Minister, get in the room, meet me halfway and do a decent thing for these nurses.
Thousands of nurses left on December 15 and 20, and the RCN said its members would strike again in England on January 18 and 19 if negotiations were not opened.
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The union also warned that strike action could continue for the next six months unless an agreement could be reached.
The government has repeatedly refused to deviate from the independent pay review body’s advice on a £1,400 increase, which is estimated at an average of 4.3% for skilled workers.
However, the government has declared its readiness to talk with trade unions regarding the determination of wages for 2023-24.
This comes as Keir Starmer said the Labor government would repeal Rishi Sunak’s anti-strike legislation, drawing clear dividing lines with the Conservatives on labor rights ahead of the next general election.
In a major speech, the party leader suggested the prime minister’s plans would not end the ongoing strikes.
Ministers will announce legislation to enforce “minimum service levels” in six sectors, including health, rail, education, firefighting and border security.
It is also understood that they are considering legislation allowing bosses to sue unions and fire workers if minimum levels are not met.