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Britain is ‘resolute’ on nurses’ pay, minister says

A STETHOSCOPE belonging to a nurse is seen in the pocket of her uniform at a hospital in north west England, Britain, March 3. — REUTERS

LONDON — The British government is “resolute” it 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% while inflation runs at more than 10%.

An estimated 10,000 nurses in the state-funded National Health Service in England, Wales and Northern Ireland plan to walk out again on Tuesday after staging strikes on Thursday in protest over the pay increase that 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,” Dowden told the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg.

However, The Guardian reported on Sunday that British health secretary, Steve Barclay, is expected to contact health unions to urge fresh talks aimed at averting further strikes.

The British Department of Health and Social Care didn’t immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union, which says its members’ real term earnings have fallen by 6% in the last decade, has called for a pay rise of 5% above the RPI rate of inflation, which stood at 14% 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 pounds, equating to about 4% on average.

Britain is facing a wave of industrial action this winter, including rail and postal services as well as healthcare.

Ambulance staff in England and Wales are planning to strike on Wednesday and on Dec. 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 minimize disruptions to ambulance and border services. — Reuters

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