Nurses and ambulance workers continue strikes across England
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The Prime Minister said that giving pay rises to striking staff – including ambulance workers and nurses – would lead to money being taken away from “elsewhere in the NHS budget”. But he insisted that the Government would continue to “engage in dialogue with the unions”.
Earlier, the Prime Minister was accused of being “missing in action” during the dispute, with one union pointing to an “abdication of leadership”.
Unite said that Health Secretary Steve Barclay “does not have authority” to negotiate pay deals, as it urged Mr Sunak to call a meeting with union leaders.
It comes as thousands of ambulance workers are staging the third strike in five weeks in the bitter dispute over pay.
Up to 15,000 Unison ambulance workers are on picket lines and have been joined by up to 5,000 of their NHS colleagues at two hospital trusts in Liverpool.
Further strikes are planned in the coming weeks by nurses and other NHS workers.
Pressed on whether there would be a point where he would have to sit down and negotiate with unions, the Prime Minister told ITV News: “Taking a step back, of course it would be lovely to be able to wave a magic wand and just give everyone what they were demanding when it came to pay.
“But my job as Prime Minister is to make the right decisions for the country, and they are, more often than not, not easy decisions.
“But that’s my job, and that’s what I will always do in this job, and… when you think about this, how would we pay for these things? Where’s the money going to come from?
“My job is to balance all of those things and do what I believe is right for the country. And that’s what we’re doing.
“I need to do, and the government needs to do, what is right for the country long term.”
Thousands of nurses and ambulance workers are due to stage walkouts on February 6 if no deal has been reached by then – potentially the biggest day of strikes in the history of the health service.
And as nurses take strike action on February 7, they will be joined by midwives in Wales.
Members of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales are to stage an eight-hour walkout from 8am to 4pm but will provide “bank holiday cover” for women in labour.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, told LBC radio: “There’s many, many days between now and February 6, and I hope the Government come to their senses, get the general secretaries around the table – we will be there any time, any place, anywhere – and do this deal.
“So, I really hope that February 6 doesn’t go ahead because the Government puts an offer on the table.
“If they don’t do that, of course it will go ahead (and) it will be a very bad day for the NHS, everybody will feel that.”
Thousands of members of Unison, Unite and the GMB unions staged walk outs across England and Wales on Monday.
Paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians, other 999 crew members and control room staff across five services in England – London, Yorkshire, the North West, North East and South West – joined picket lines.
Porters, cleaners, nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants, theatre staff and other NHS workers at the Liverpool University Hospitals Trust and the city’s Heart and Chest Hospital are also out on strike.
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