NHS strikes called off for talks

The surprise announcement that the Royal College of Nursing was calling off its planned escalation of strike action having been promised talks on pay with the government appears to indicate some shift in attitude by ministers, including PM Rishi Sunak.

The announcement – first seen by the other major unions taking strike action over NHS pay when they read press reports – came hard on the heels of a massive vote for strike action by junior doctors in the BMA and an equally strong vote by the smaller Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association.

However there are obvious fears that the government may be trying to ‘divide and rule’ by talking to the RCN (with no prior offer, but with references to “productivity enhancing reforms”), while refusing to negotiate with UNISON, Unite and GMB or with the doctors’ unions.

These concerns were intensified with the publication of the government’s tight-fisted proposal of a maximum 3.5% increase for 2023/24 in its evidence to the discredited Pay Review Body.  Far from any possibility of the PRB retrospectively taking account of the massive hike in the cost of living since January 2022, the government is making clear it wants NHS staff to face yet another year of real terms pay cuts.

Full story in The Lowdown, 26 February 2023