Home / Royal Mail / Unions told ‘there simply isn’t the money’ to give public sector workers inflation-busting pay rises

Unions told ‘there simply isn’t the money’ to give public sector workers inflation-busting pay rises

Union leaders were warned that the Government cannot afford inflation-busting pay rises for public sector workers today as the country braces for a wave of brutal Christmas strikes.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said he did not have ‘a bottomless pit of taxpayers money’ to hand out to rail workers, nurses and thousands of others who will walk out in December.

Strike action over pay will see trains stop running and posties refusing to deliver cards and presents in the run up to Christmas Day, in scenes reminiscent of the dark days of militancy in the 1970s.

Tens of thousands of nurses are also due to down tools for two days, the first industrial action in the history of the Royal College of Nursing.

More than 100,000 civil servants are due to walk out, including Border Force staff at ports and airports, potentially affecting holiday getaway plans. 

And the Communication Workers Union (CWU) has rejected Royal Mail’s final pay offer and is pressing ahead with more strikes, including Christmas Eve. 

Mr Harper, who had a positive meeting with RMY boss Mick Lynch last week, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘I think we want to try and give all the workers in the public sector who work very hard decent pay rises, but they can’t be inflation-busting pay rises.

‘There simply isn’t the money to pay for those given the context, we haven’t seen those in the private sector either, the private sector pay rises have generally been settled below the level of inflation, which I accept is difficult for people.’

Mr Harper, who had a positive meeting with RMY boss Mick Lynch last week, told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: ‘I think we want to try and give all the workers in the public sector who work very hard decent pay rises, but they can’t be inflation-busting pay rises.’

When are Christmas strikes taking place? 

Nurses

December 15 and 20

Train drivers

December 13, 14, 16 and 17

Royal Mail

December 14, 15, 23 and Christmas Eve

Passport control

From mid-December

The RCN announced the first in a series of walk outs over pay will take place on Thursday 15 and Tuesday 20 December – though emergency and urgent care will still take place during the 12-hour strikes. 

It is the latest in a series of co-ordinated moves by unions that have prompted accusations they are organising a de-facto general strike. 

Last week the militant RMT union threw the Christmas plans of millions into chaos by calling four 48-hour strikes between December 13 and January 7. 

There will also be an overtime ban between December 18 and January 2, meaning there could be hundreds of last-minute cancellations. Train operators rely on staff working overtime to run a full timetable. 

Nurses are set to strike for two days before Christmas in a row over pay.  The strikes will still affect around half of hospitals, potentially postponing 30,000 operations and hundreds of thousands of outpatient appointments. 

It comes as NHS bosses warned the health service faces ‘its most challenging winter ever’ with the ‘tripledemic’ of flu, Covid and record demand on urgent and emergency services.

It follows the first vote in the RCN’s 106-year history, in which 300,000 members were asked if they favoured industrial action.

Its general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said: ‘While billions of pounds is being spent on temporary measures like agency staff to stick a plaster on the NHS workforce crisis, we are told a pay rise for nursing staff is unaffordable.

‘With 47,000 nurse vacancies in England’s NHS alone, a pay rise for nurses isn’t just about fair pay – it’s about retaining and recruiting enough nurses to safely care for patients.

‘Strike action is always a last resort but for too long we have been ignored. Nursing staff won’t stand by while their patients are put in harm’s way – they are doing this for themselves and for their patients.’

The RCN said it will announce which particular NHS employers be striking next week, when formal notifications are submitted.

Cancer hospitals such as the Royal Marsden in London and Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool voted to strike, putting chemotherapy appointments at risk.

Care at maternity hospitals and children’s hospitals is also expected to be disrupted, while nurses will strike at the biggest hospitals in London, including Guy’s and St Thomas’, according to the ballot results.

Critical care in life-threatening situations should not be put at risk with health services prioritising emergency care on strike days, officials stressed.

However, elective treatment, outpatient care and other healthcare services are likely to be affected, exacerbating a postcode lottery of care.

Labour’s Lisa Nandy has said the Government should be ‘moving heaven and earth’ to stop rail strikes.

The shadow levelling up secretary was asked on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme about comments from Transport Secretary Mark Harper that inflation-busting pay rises are ‘unaffordable’.

She said: ‘They’re unaffordable because of 12 years of Tory Government and 44 days in which Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng crashed the economy.

‘I think there ought to be a level of humility about that within Government.

‘What he should be doing is moving heaven and earth to try and avert strikes coming up this winter.

‘It’s been a really tough year for a lot of people and nobody wants to see strikes, least of all the people who are having to resort to strike action.’


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