Rishi Sunak opens door to 'honest' talks with strikers about pay rises as both sides remain deadlocked | The Sun

RISHI Sunak has opened the door to “honest” talks with strikers about pay rises — as ministers meet unions today.

But the Prime Minister would not be drawn on whether he would discuss the current year’s pay deal for nurses.

It comes as ministers from the Health, Transport and Education departments prepare for talks with unions.

Last night, union chiefs said the PM’s words were a “chink of optimism” with both sides deadlocked.

In a big sit-down interview to kick-start the new year, Mr Sunak promised to eliminate one-year waiting lists for NHS operations by next spring — but refused several times to admit the NHS was “in crisis”.

He told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “We want to have a reasonable, honest conversation about pay.


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“The door has always been open to talk about the things nurses want to talk about, and the unions want to talk about more generally.”

Mr Sunak did not “categorically” rule out a pay rise for nurses “right here, right now”, saying: “We want to have these conversations.”

He refused to get into the specifics of negotiations but insisted next year’s pay deals and talks for April’s agreement are under way.

Nursing unions had demanded a 19 per cent pay rise for 2022-23 but have since admitted that is not likely and they may accept a ten per cent increase.

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A further two-day strike by nurses is pencilled in for January 18 and 19, and ambulance drivers will walk out again on January 23.

DVLA staff processing driving licences are set to walk out this week too, and a ballot on action by teachers is expected by Friday.

Royal College of Nursing leader Pat Cullen said of Mr Sunak’s olive branch: “The PM talked about coming to the table. That’s a move for me because I’ve said, ‘Let’s meet halfway’. If that table is now available, I will be there — but it must be about addressing pay from 2022-23.”

But Unite’s Sharon Graham hit out, saying today’s meeting “has been misrepresented on almost every level”.

She added: “It is not a negotiation, it is not on current NHS pay and it is not with the PM. Unless and until he accepts the need to make real progress on the current pay claim, there will still be strikes across the NHS this winter.”

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