Rishi Sunak met Tory members earlier this week and, in an introductory video before he sat down, laid out his successes since taking over at Number 10.
Alongside the Windsor Framework, the AUKUS defence pact and the Illegal Migration Bill, his video hailed the “NHS staff pay deal”.
But it may have to be edited after members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) went against the advice of their leader and rejected the offer.
Pat Cullen, the general secretary of the nurses’ union, had recommended that members accept the offer of five per cent this year plus a one-off bonus for the previous year. On Friday, however, the result of the ballot revealed that 54 per cent disagreed with her and wanted to continue the strike action.
The decision is something of a blow for the Prime Minister, because he had hoped that RCN acceptance of the offer would have persuaded other unions to compromise. Officials had fixed upon a “divide and rule” approach under which deals would be reached with less extreme unions first, putting pressure on others to give up the fight.
As well as nurses, Britain faces strike action by teachers, civil servants and rail workers. Instead of heralding an end to the wave of strikes, the RCN members’ decision could see industrial action continuing for months.
However, government figures are not quite as downbeat as might be expected, saying it was possible that the pay deal could still go through. They say they could still get the support of two out of three of the big unions – Unison, GMB and the RCN – along with a handful of small ones, meaning the five per cent pay rise would go into effect.
That is because it would give them a majority on the “NHS staff council”, which has responsibility for the pay system and includes representatives from both employers and trade unions.
On Friday, Unison announced that its members had backed the deal by 74 per cent, boosting the Government’s argument.
Ministers hope that if RCN members see that others have accepted the deal, they will be unwilling to vote for further strikes. In addition, they will begin to see the effect of the five per cent increase in their pay packets, which could diminish the appetite for further industrial action.
“Nurses don’t want to be on strike,” the source said. “Most frontline members don’t really want to be on strike. They want to do their jobs.”
With the nurses strike settled, ministers then hope other unions may follow suit and end their disputes.
Whether or not that ends up being the case, Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has made it plain that there is no chance of the Government upping its offer.
Speaking in Washington on Thursday, Mr Hunt said the Government was prepared to face down pay demands from striking teachers and doctors even if that led to more short-term economic pain. He said bowing to pay demands would be a “short-term fix” that risked stoking already “dangerously high” inflation.
So unless the Government is right, and union members tire of strike action, Britain looks set for months of stalemate.
Source : MSN