Nurses in England pause strikes to enter talks with government

Set for intensive negotiations on long-running dispute over pay and conditions

By Reuters

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A nurse waves as she and others hold signs during a strike outside St Thomas' Hospital in London. — Reuters
A nurse waves as she and others hold signs during a strike outside St Thomas' Hospital in London. — Reuters

Published: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 10:01 PM

Nurses will pause strike action in England to enter “intensive talks” with the British government on pay and conditions, both sides said on Tuesday, in the first sign of a break in a long-running dispute.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the government said the first talks would start on Wednesday when health minister Steve Barclay would meet RCN representatives.

“Both sides are committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement that recognises the vital role that nurses and nursing play in the National Health Service and the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom and the prime minister’s priority to halve inflation,” the statement said.

The move could cancel a 48-hour strike planned by the RCN for March 1 involving nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services who did not take part in earlier walkouts.

The RCN held a series of two-day strikes in December, January and earlier this month.

Britain is experiencing its largest wave of strike action in decades, involving hundreds of thousands of workers from a range of professions and piling pressure on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to settle the disputes, many of which involve the public sector.

The RCN has been pushing for a pay rise which better reflects the worst inflation in Britain in four decades, while the government has so far said that such pay rises would only fuel inflation, causing interest rates and mortgages to go up.

Despite Tuesday’s announcement, the NHS is set to face the strain from a strike planned for next month by tens of thousands of junior doctors in England, who earlier in the week voted in favour of further walkouts.

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