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UK Nurses Pause Strike Action Amid Intensive Talks Over Pay Dispute

Nurses in the UK are putting their major strike action on hold while they engage in “intensive talks” with the British government to resolve a pay dispute. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the government have agreed to focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity-enhancing reforms during the talks. The pause in strike action comes after the government announced that a 3.5 percent pay rise for staff would be “affordable” for the majority of NHS staff in 2023/2024.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen expressed confidence in reaching an agreement on pay for nurses, saying she believes the prime minister’s intervention will lead to a fair pay settlement. The talks are expected to begin on Wednesday, with Health Secretary Steve Barclay meeting with RCN representatives.

The pause in strike action is a positive development for patients and NHS staff, according to Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers. He noted that trust leaders will be breathing a sigh of relief that the government and the RCN are finally coming around the table to talk about pay. Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, echoed this sentiment, welcoming the prime minister’s instigation of meaningful discussions with the RCN.

The UK’s NHS Pay Review Body is responsible for making recommendations on the pay of more than one million NHS staff paid under the Agenda for Change contract. The government has submitted its evidence to the body, stating that a 3.5 percent pay rise for staff would be affordable.

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen (Via Pat Cullen/Twitter)

Other health unions are also taking industrial action. The British Medical Association (BMA) announced that junior doctors have voted overwhelmingly in favor of taking industrial action, which will include all doctors under consultant level and potentially coincide with action taken by other health unions. Ambulance workers are also set to take strike action, with the Unison union, GMB, and Unite unions planning strikes in the coming weeks.

The industrial disputes in the NHS are a result of workers facing a squeeze on living standards driven by soaring inflation. The government’s ability to reach agreements with health unions will be crucial in resolving these disputes and avoiding further disruption to NHS services.

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