UK Health Minister Steve Barclay said Friday that the country’s nursing staff will receive a «fair» pay rise shortly after unions announced two historic strikes in December.
He said that the government has accepted the recommendations of the National Health Service (NHS) Pay Review Body and specified that salaries will be increased by at least 1,400 pounds this year (about 1,600 euros).
«This means that a newly qualified nurse will be paid around 31,000 pounds a year (more than 36,000 euros),» he said, before stressing that the unions are demanding a 17.6 percent increase, three times higher than the salary of millions of workers in the private sector.
«Our priority is patient safety. The healthcare system has tested and implemented several tests to minimize problems and guarantee emergency services, but inevitably these strikes will affect services,» he lamented.
However, he has stressed that «his door remains open» in case the unions «want to sit down to discuss how to improve the working conditions of nurses,» as he has pointed out in a Twitter message.
Previously, the country’s Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced that 12-hour strikes will take place on December 15 and 22, affecting the services provided by these professionals in a large part of the country.
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, has accused Barclay of being «intransigent». «If he wants to meet with me (…), he can turn this thing around and stop the strikes. My door is open day and night. I will be available in defense of my team and the nurses,» he said. However, she has denounced that such an option «is not available to her and, consequently, (Barclay) has chosen strikes over talks».
The strikes planned for December are the first in the country in the nursing sector and have been called after the British authorities refused to hold formal negotiations on wage increases for NHS workers.
The RCN has stated that its members will be on strike between 8.00 and 20.00, about twelve hours, both on December 15 and 22, according to information from the newspaper ‘The Guardian’.
«Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that workers are dissatisfied and would go on strike for the first time,» Cullen said. «My offer to negotiate was rejected,» he has maintained.