Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdown

484     0
Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdown
Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdown

Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out striking NHS staff getting the sack under his new crackdown.

The Prime Minister swerved a question on whether health workers could lose their jobs if they defy “minimum service level” laws imposed by his government.

Mr Sunak also shot down the Royal College of Nursing's call to “meet halfway” on its 19% pay demand - as it’s believed the union could accept 10% instead.

He said he wanted a “grown-up honest conversation” with unions and they are being invited in for talks on Monday.

But the government has already said these talks will be about pay for 2023/24 - even though 2022/23 party offers are still unresolved.

Teachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade rridqqieqiqerinvTeachers, civil servants and train drivers walk out in biggest strike in decade

When asked if 10% was an acceptable request, Health Secretary Steve Barclay instead dodged the question to talk about next year’s pay and an offer in Scotland.

He said: “The RCN actually turned down an offer in Scotland which was 7.5%, and significantly more than 10% if you look to the other things within that package, but the key thing is to look at the coming year.

“The pay review body will be looking at the pressure of cost of living, the pressure on inflation. There is scope for us to see how we make that more affordable by working together on issues of productivity on issues of efficiency.”

Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdownThe Prime Minister swerved a question on whether health workers could lose their jobs (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A Royal College of Nursing spokesperson said: "Like late last year, we will always meet the health secretary to discuss the issues. But negotiations about pay for the current year, not next year, are what we need to call off this month's strike action."

The RCN says it already protects life-saving care during strikes. But Tory ministers last night announced they will pass a law imposing compulsory minimum service levels on firefighters, paramedics and railway workers.

It will mean some workers have to attend their job, even if their union has voted to strike.

Firms will be able to sue unions for damages or have them slapped with an injunction if they refuse.

Unions believe workers defying the laws could be sacked because they would lose their legal protection - despite desperate staff shortages.

Asked if health workers can be sacked under his new law, Mr Sunak replied: “I fully believe in the unions’ role in our society and the freedom for them to strike.

“But I also believe that should be balanced with the right of ordinary working people to go about their lives free from significant disruption.

Greggs, Costa & Pret coffees have 'huge differences in caffeine', says reportGreggs, Costa & Pret coffees have 'huge differences in caffeine', says report
Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdownRishi Sunak was interviewed on a visit to a school (Getty Images)
Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdownHe met pupils at Harris Academy in Battersea, south-west London (PA)

“And that's why we're going to bring forward new laws in common with countries like France, Italy, Spain, and others, that ensure we have minimum levels of safety in critical areas like fire, like ambulances, so that even when strikes are going on, you know that your health will be protected.

“I think that's entirely reasonable and that's what our new laws will do.”

A new Bill on minimum service levels will be introduced to Parliament as soon as next week.

It will include health, education, fire and rescue and transport services, border security, and decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

Rishi Sunak refuses to rule out NHS staff getting sacked in his strike crackdownRail union chief Mick Lynch warns the crackdown is illegal (Ben Cawthra/LNP)

At first, compulsory minimum safety levels will only be set for fire, ambulance and rail services.

The other areas - including schools - will rely on voluntary agreements at first but service levels could become compulsory if this does not work, the government said.

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch has consulted a high-ranking lawyer who has told him the plans are “completely illegal”, he said.

The rail union chief told BBC Breakfast: “What they are saying is that they will sack our members if they don't go to work.

"They are going to conscript our members.”

The RCN’s general secretary Pat Cullen said yesterday: “Last month’s action was safe for patients because of detailed discussions we chose to initiate with the NHS to protect emergency services and life-saving care. The public respected that and even ministers acknowledged our constructive approach.

“Safe staffing levels that are set in law are what we want to see year-round - not just in these extreme circumstances.”

Dan Bloom

Print page

Comments:

comments powered by Disqus