NHS strike crisis looms as health unions boycott formal pay talks and demand summit with Tories

NHS unions have declared plans to boycott the independent body that sets health workers’ pay.

Union chiefs want to negotiate pay for their members directly with ministers instead.


NHS unions have declared plans to boycott the independent pay body that sets health workers’ wagesCredit: PA

The boycott is a huge blow to the government, who hoped to make progress this week in the long-running industrial dispute between health workers and the Health Department.

The independent pay review body makes recommendations about public sector wages to ministers, who can then accept or reject them.

While ministers accepted the pay rise on offer for 2022/2023, unions think the money on offer it isn’t close to enough.

Now they say they won’t consider the body’s decision due to be made in April around pay for 2023/2024 until a deal on this year’s offer is done.

The 14 unions planning a boycott represent more than one million workers, including ambulance drivers, nurses and administrators.

Sara Gorton, chair of the NHS group of unions, said: “The pay review body process doesn’t fit the current context.

“The NHS staffing crisis is so acute only prompt action on pay – both for this and the next financial year – can start to turn things around.”

She added: “The public knows ambulance response times are worsening and hospital waiting lists growing because the NHS no longer has the necessary staff to meet demand, nor provide safe patient care.

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“Ministers must seize the initiative, get everyone around the table and negotiate a way to the best deal for staff, patients and services.”

This morning Steve Barclay said he didn’t think it’s right to reopen pay negotiations for this year – but is happy to talk about future deals.

The Health Secretary, who met with union leaders yesterday, told BBC Radio 4: “The purpose of the meeting on Monday was to look at this coming year’s pay review body and the evidence going in.

“But of course it was an opportunity to listen to the trade unions in terms of their points on last year’s settlement.

“I don’t think it is right to go all the way back to April and retrospectively look at April when we’re already under way in terms of this year’s pay review body.

“But of course the unions made representations about that and what the Prime Minister said at the weekend is nothing is off the table.”

The pay body boycott comes as ambulance workers up and down the UK are once more striking today in a row over pay.

Brits have been warned to only call 999 in ‘life-threatening’ circumstances.

Services will be stretched with thousands of staff members having taken to the picket line.

The last strike was on December 21, and walkouts are also expected on January 23.

Paramedics, emergency care assistants, ambulance technicians, other 999 crew members and control room staff are among those who will be on picket lines at various times during the day.

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