UK government is 'resolute' on nurses' pay, senior minister says

The country is facing a wave of industrial action this winter amid the rising cost of living

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden. PA
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The British government is “resolute” and will not budge on nurses' pay, senior minister Oliver Dowden said on Sunday, ahead of a planned second nationwide walkout by the profession over an average pay offer of 4 per cent while inflation runs at more than 10 per cent.

An estimated 10,000 nurses in the state-funded National Health Service plan to walk out again on Tuesday after striking on Thursday in a protest against the pay increase they have been offered.

“We will be resolute in response to this because it will be irresponsible to allow public sector pay and inflation to get out of control and we owe a wider duty to the public to make sure we keep our public finances under control,” Mr Dowden told the BBC's Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union, which says its members' real term earnings have fallen by 6 per cent in the last decade, has called for a pay rise of 5 per cent above the RPI rate of inflation, which stood at 14 per cent in November.

Its leader Pat Cullen said on Friday that unless ministers “start playing ball by taking part in meaningful negotiations” over pay, nurses would continue to take action.

“Governments have had every chance to act but they have chosen to turn their backs on us,” she said.

Mr Dowden said nurses' pay was recommended by an independent pay review body, which had determined that nurses would receive a minimum rise of £1,400 ($1,697), equating to about 4 per cent on average.

Industrial action has also been taken by rail workers, Royal Mail staff and other sectors in recent weeks over pay disputes amid the rising cost of living.

Ambulance staff in England and Wales are planning to strike on Wednesday and on December 28, and Border Force staff working in passport control are also walking out in periods over Christmas.

The government has drafted in about 1,200 members of the military and 1,000 government officials to try to minimise disruptions to ambulance and border services.

Updated: December 18, 2022, 3:13 PM