Rishi Sunak Prepares for New Concessions to End Public Sector Strikes | Industrial Activity
Rishi Sunak prepares to make new concessions to end months of grueling public sector strikes as negotiations begin with teachers.
Now that No. 10 wants all disputes to be resolved in the coming weeks, talks between teacher unions and the Ministry of Education began on Friday and are expected to continue through the weekend. There were also reports that junior doctors agreed to start formal negotiations with the Department of Health and Welfare.
But the Union of Universities and Colleges strikes planned for next week will continue after the union’s committee on higher education voted to continue the strike and refused to put the employers’ proposals to a vote of members.
Health Minister Steve Barkley’s proposal to NHS unions on Thursday highlighted that the government was now ready to compromise after months of standoff in which ministers insisted there was no additional money for the current fiscal year.
NHS staff, including nurses, porters and ambulance crews, have been offered a one-off bonus of up to 8.2% this year and a 5% pay rise from April, with more for the lowest paid – a deal that is hoped government, will encourage others. Unions sit down at the table.
Most of the NHS unions involved in the dispute will recommend the proposal to their members, who will have to approve it by voting.
However, questions continued to arise on Friday about how the NHS increase would be paid for as discussions took place between the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSC) and the Treasury. The British Medical Association is also believed to have agreed to formal talks on similar terms following three days of junior doctors’ strikes this week.
DHSC was previously only funded for a 3.5% raise and it is not clear where the extra money will come from. The DHSC source acknowledged that efficiency savings are likely part of the answer.
“We do expect efficiency to be a part of that, and that’s okay: Steve would prefer the money to go to pay nurses rather than go to waste in some parts of the department, but that wouldn’t affect patient care in any way,” he said. He. the source said.
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting dismissed this, saying, “I don’t think the Health Secretary is on the one hand saying there will be no cuts to frontline services, but on the other hand can’t explain where the money is.” actually comes from.
“He can’t tell us exactly where the money is coming from and I just don’t think he’s serious.”
NHS leaders fear they could face severe funding cuts to cover growth, as has happened in previous years, and are demanding more clarity from the government. NHS England has previously said there is nothing more to cut as it has already done its best to save through efficiency gains and runs a budget deficit of up to £7bn for 2023-24, which its CFO Julian Kelly said , could lead to “Tough Choices” regarding investments, including for elective surgery, cancer treatment, emergency pressure and mental health.
Sally Gainsbury, NHS finance expert at Nuffield Trust, said there was no room in the NHS budget to fund pay increases and there was no additional funds in the DHSC budget as it had already requested an additional £6.2bn from the treasury. this year to cover running costs related to Covid.
She estimated that the 5% consolidated payroll offer would cost around £3.5bn, “about £2bn more than the plans suggest”.
A Downing Street source said Sunak had looked into the NHS proposal personally. “He’s all about the numbers: he wouldn’t sign up for something that he couldn’t afford,” they said. “I think everyone wants to put these beats behind us.”
Teachers’ unions and the Department of Education (DfE) released a joint statement on Friday saying their talks will focus on teacher pay, conditions and workload reduction.
The National Education Union (NEU), which held two-day strikes in England this week, said it would “create a two-week quiet period” and refrain from announcing further strikes to allow talks to continue breaking the deadlock. with DFE.
The parties, including the National Association of School Principals, the Association of School and College Principals, and NASUWT, have taken a vow of silence on the progress of the talks through the media.
Understandably, teacher unions have been warned of limited resources in government to resolve public sector strikes, suggesting that it is in their best interest to seek a speedy resolution of their own dispute.
A key stumbling block for teachers’ unions is whether any pay deal should be funded from existing school budgets, echoing the concerns of health workers’ unions over funding a deal with the National Health Service.
Earlier, Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the British Medical Association’s junior physicians’ committee, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program that he thought discussions would begin in the coming days. “It’s disappointing that strikes have been taken for meaningful discussion, but it’s promising that they can move forward and I only hope we can make it in our own dispute,” he said.
Junior doctors are expected to be offered a similar deal with other NHS unions, but ministers want the BMA to put the strike on hold and drop its demands for a 35% raise to recoup years of lost earnings.
This week’s young doctors’ strike has resulted in even greater losses of nurses and EMTs than the previous strike, with more than 175,000 appointments and procedures rescheduled to protect emergency, critical and emergency care.
Streeting urged the government to come to an agreement with junior doctors, but warned that Labor would be unwilling to fund the full 35% pay rise that the BMA had asked for. “I wish I could promise that the Labor government would restore full pay overnight, but the truth is we can’t,” he said.