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Sunak branded ‘out of touch’ for pledging to curb nurses’ strikes

Public sector unions criticise prime minister's talk of introducing tough laws to prevent what he calls ‘unreasonable’ strikes

Public sector unions criticise prime minister's talk of introducing tough laws to prevent what he calls ‘unreasonable’ strikes

Rishi Sunak has been accused of being ‘out of touch’ after he vowed to limit the impact of ‘unreasonable’ strike action with ‘new tough laws’.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on 7 December, Mr Sunak promised to curb disruption as hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, including nurses, prepare to take industrial action this winter over poor pay.

He said the government had been ‘reasonable’ in dealing with the demands of unions and had fully accepted the advice of

Public sector unions criticise prime minister's talk of introducing tough laws to prevent what he calls ‘unreasonable’ strikes

Rishi Sunak speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. Picture: Parliament TV

Rishi Sunak has been accused of being ‘out of touch’ after he vowed to limit the impact of ‘unreasonable’ strike action with ‘new tough laws’.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions on 7 December, Mr Sunak promised to curb disruption as hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, including nurses, prepare to take industrial action this winter over poor pay.

He said the government had been ‘reasonable’ in dealing with the demands of unions and had fully accepted the advice of pay review bodies.

‘It is my duty to protect the lives of the British public’ – Sunak

Whitehall sources reportedly suggested that measures could include a ban on emergency workers striking in the future or unions coordinating joint action.

Mr Sunak added: ‘If the union leaders continue to be unreasonable, it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public. And that’s why… I have been working for new tough laws to protect people from this disruption.’

Don’t tell nurses they are being ‘unreasonable’, union says

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen urged Mr Sunak to negotiate with nurses and ‘stop these cheap and divisive political games’.

She added: ‘Hundreds of thousands of hard-working, decent people should not be cast aside as ‘unreasonable’ for expecting better for themselves, their families and their patients. The prime minister appears out of touch with the public if he is intent on attacking nursing staff like this.’

The government offered nurses in England and Wales a pay offer of £1,400 earlier this year, but the RCN has been campaigning for a pay increase of 5% above the retail price index measure of inflation, which is currently running at 14.2%.

Government officials have repeatedly said the RCN’s pay demands are not affordable.

Unions’ letter urges government to make progress on pay

Meanwhile, unions have again called on the government to engage in ‘meaningful’ pay talks, saying all their requests have been stonewalled.

In a joint letter to chancellor Jeremy Hunt yesterday, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and Unison accused the government of ‘hiding behind pay review bodies’.

‘When your cabinet colleagues have met unions, they have repeatedly refused to talk about public sector pay,’ wrote TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and general secretary of Unison Christina McAnea.

‘Ministers cannot continue to hide behind pay review bodies. The government sets their remit.’

Stark drop in nurses’ pay since 2010

The letter continues: ‘Nurses, ambulance staff, teachers and millions of other key workers have already seen their living standards decimated with over a decade of pay cuts and wage freezes.

‘Nurses are earning £5,000 a year less in real terms than they were in 2010. And hospitals and schools are having to set up food banks for staff. This cannot go on.’


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