Nurses and paramedics reach pay deal to end strikes in England | News, Sports, Jobs

FILE – Junior doctors hold placards on a picket line outside St Mary’s Hospital in London, Tuesday March 14, 2023. Unions representing hundreds of thousands of nurses, paramedics and other Healthcare workers in England reached an agreement on Thursday March 16, 2023, to resolve months of disruptive strikes for higher pay, although the pact did not include doctors. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, file)

By BRIAN MELLEY Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Unions representing more than a million healthcare workers in England, including nurses and paramedics — but not doctors — reached an agreement on Thursday to resolve months of disruptive pay strikes. higher.

The announcement came as early career medics spent a third day on picket lines and the day after UK Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt announced a budget that included no money extra for labor groups who have staged crippling strikes amid a cost of living crisis and double-digit inflation.

All strike action will be halted while rank and file members vote on whether to accept a lump sum payment offer for the current year and a 5% raise next year.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said it was good business for National Health Service staff who persevered through the pandemic with patients and taxpayers. He encouraged other striking unions to come to the bargaining table.

“We don’t want disruption for patients, we don’t want disruption for schoolchildren in our classrooms,” Sunak said during a visit to a London hospital, where he met nurses. “Today’s agreement demonstrates that we are serious about this and that we can find workable solutions.”

But the head of the Royal College of Nursing, one of at least five unions backing the deal, said the pay offer would not have come if nurses had not made the difficult decision to go on strike, forcing the government to negotiate.

“This is not a panacea, but it is real and tangible progress, and RCN member leaders are calling on their fellow nurses to support what our negotiations have achieved,” said the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen.

Unite, the UK’s largest union but with less of a health presence, has lambasted the government for months “trembling and lag” who caused unnecessary pain for staff and patients and said he would not recommend the deal but let workers vote on it.

“It is clear that this government does not have the interests of workers or the NHS at heart,” said Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham. “Their behavior and disregard for NHS workers and workers in general is evident in their actions. Britain has a broken economy and working people are paying the price.

Unions say public sector wages have not kept pace with soaring food and energy prices that have left many households struggling to pay their bills.

UK inflation hit a 40-year high of 11.1% in October before falling to 10.1% in January.

Since last summer, a wave of strikes by train drivers, airport baggage handlers, border staff, driving instructors and postal workers have taken their toll on residents.

Firefighters, who called off a planned strike, and London bus drivers recently reached agreements to continue working. But many other professions remain locked in wage disputes. Tens of thousands of teachers, civil servants and metro workers in the capital all went on strike on Wednesday.

Some criticized healthcare workers for putting lives at risk, although paramedics said they responded to the most urgent calls and emergency rooms were staffed.

Healthcare workers, including midwives and physiotherapists, had been in talks since staging what organizers called the biggest strike in the history of the country’s National Health Service last month .

The trade union actions echo the economic unrest that has spread in France, particularly over the government’s plan to raise the retirement age.

The lackluster UK economy is expected to avoid a recession this year, although growth will continue to contract. The International Monetary Fund said last month that the country would be the only major economy to contract this year, performing even worse than sanctions-hit Russia.

It was not immediately clear where the funding for the increases would come from as they were not included in the budget announced by Hunt on Wednesday and the Department of Health and Social Care had recently claimed that increases above 3.5% were unaffordable.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said they would seek cost savings and funding would ultimately go to the Treasury and not come at the expense of patients.

If the Treasury does not provide the extra money, the overburdened public health system could be forced for a second straight year to cut spending or posts, said Ben Zaranko of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, an independent think tank. who analyzes public finances and economic policies.

“There must be a risk that the NHS will be asked to make heroic efficiency savings to absorb these costs, strive to do so and instead have to be bailed out in 6 months or a year,” said Zaranko. “That would hardly lend itself to reasonable financial planning.”

Ratified deal with nurses and others will ease some of the pain for the publicly funded public health care system, which has been beset by winter viruses, staffing shortages and backlogs from the COVID-19 pandemic .

The deal only applies to workers in England as Scotland and Wales have semi-autonomous governments in charge of health policy.

Nurses and paramedics reach pay deal to end strikes in England | News, Sports, Jobs

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