The Royal College of Nursing wants the UK government to meet it “halfway” on pay, the union’s chief said, in another sign of softening positions ahead of more planned strikes later this month.
RCN General Secretary Pat Cullen told Times Radio’s Past Imperfect podcast that she wanted Health Secretary Steve Barclay to move much closer to the 19 per cent increase sought by nurses. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has so far stuck with the advice of an independent pay review body, which has seen the average pay of nurses rise by around 4 per cent.
“Absolutely, I believe they’re entitled to 19 per cent, but we also understand the economic climate that we’re working in,” Cullen said. “What I would say to Steve Barclay and to the prime minister is, ‘Get into a room and meet me halfway here. Do the decent thing for these nurses.’”
Media including Sky News and the Press Association subsequently reported that the union would be willing to accept an increase of about 10 per cent, without saying where they got the information.
Sunak has faced a wave of strikes this winter including by nurses, ambulance drivers and railway workers, with the RCN planning to strike again on Jan. 18 and 19. In a speech this week, Sunak also hinted at a more accommodating approach, saying he wanted “reasonable dialogue with the unions about what’s responsible and fair.”
Besides questions about how the UK would pay for such wage increases, the government and Bank of England are worried about a wage-price spiral taking hold and potentially driving inflation past the 41-year high of 11.1 per cent it reached in October.