Nurses threaten to STORM OUT of talks with ‘rude and disrespectful’ Health Secretary as Britain braces for MONTH of strike chaos

Strike chaos: Health Secretary Steve Barclay was slammed as "rude' by nursing leaders
Strike chaos: Health Secretary Steve Barclay was slammed as "rude' by nursing leaders
Victoria Jones
Richard Jeffries

By Richard Jeffries

Published: 12/12/2022

- 19:10

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:27

Crippling month of strikes set to go ahead across UK as furious unions declare war on ministers

NURSING leaders said they would walk out of talks with the Health Secretary if he refuses to show them "respect".

Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing’s director in England, demanded the Government take their 19 per cent pay claim seriously.

And she threatened to end the crunch talks with Steve Barclay prematurely - and press ahead with Thursday's historic strike - unless his attitude improved.

Ms Marquis said: "I think that is quite likely [that we'll walk out] as there is no further conversation to be had.

"We've already met with Steve Barclay, once on our own and once with the other trade unions and had the same conversation around him not being prepared to talk about pay."

Marquis added she was “deeply disappointed” the Health Secretary continues to be so “rude” and “disrespectful” to people “trying hard to deliver what patients want”.

As many as 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) will walkout across the UK on Thursday in the first of two strike dates in a dispute over pay.

Patricia Marquis has threatened to walk out of strike talks with the Health Secretary
Patricia Marquis has threatened to walk out of strike talks with the Health Secretary

The Government has previously confirmed that majority of health workers - including nurses - are to receive a 4.75 per cent increase in pay while doctors and dentists will be given a 4.5 per cent rise.

But union bosses continue to demand a 19 per cent pay rise for nurses which the Health Secretary has branded unrealistic and warned it would take money away from funding NHS operations.

Mr Barclay has repeatedly said the Government’s position on pay remains unchanged, with only "other matters" up for discussion.

Earlier today, the Prime Minister’s spokesman told reporters that Mr Barclay was willing to speak to nurses.

However, when pressed on whether he is willing to talk to the union about pay, the official said: “The position on pay has not changed – that’s rightly for an independent review body to decide.”

A wave of strikes by nurses, rail and postal workers and Border Force staff this month is expected to cause mass disruption, with thousands of NHS operations and appointments cancelled.

The military and civil servants are likely to be brought in to cover Border Force staff, while armed forces will also be deployed to hospital trusts.

The talks between the RCN and Mr Barclay come as strikes by ambulance staff and some NHS workers in Scotland have been called off after members of two unions voted to accept the Scottish government’s recent pay deal.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) will continue to press ahead with three strikes at Network Rail – and 14 train companies – from Tuesday and Friday after members of the UK's largest rail union rejected a pay offer.

They will walk out on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after rejecting a 5 per cent pay rise this year and a 4 per cent rise in 2023. RMT chief Mick Lynch described the deal as "substandard", with 64 per cent of members rejecting the deal.

File photo dated 27/01/21 of nurses working at the nurses station, as nurses are to hold two days of strike action next month in a dramatic escalation of the pay row raging across the NHS.
Strikes by nurses, rail and postal workers and Border Force staff are set to cause mass disruption

Oliver Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, urged all of the unions taking part in strike action to call off the walkouts after he chaired a meeting of the COBRA emergency committee.

He said: "The single best thing that can be done to minimise those risks - we can’t eliminate them all together - is for the strikes to be called off and for those unions to once again engage with the employers.

"It’s only fair and reasonable at a time when people are struggling both with the consequences of the situation in Russia and Ukraine, as we emerge from Covid, and indeed this winter, I don’t think most people think it’s fair and reasonable to undertake these strikes.

"My message to them, even now, is please call them off."

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