Ministers ‘hopeful’ over pay talks with teachers and junior doctors

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Ministers hope the breakthrough in strike negotiations this week with NHS workers could lead to similar deals with other unions involved in bitter disputes over pay. Junior doctors and teachers are next in line for talks with the Government after several health union bosses accepted an offer for nurses and other NHS workers. The deal will now be put to union members who will be balloted from next week.

Meanwhile Health Secretary Steve Barclay plans to meet with striking junior doctors next week in a bid to resolve their pay dispute, which led to a three-day walkout this week.

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said the Government hoped a similar pay deal could be struck following talks.

Mr Raab said: “I think it is good news that in all of those areas the vast majority of unions have accepted the deal that has been offered following the discussions with the Health Secretary.

“In relation to junior doctors, I know that the Health Secretary has extended the offer for negotiations with the British Medical Association (BMA).

“The same offer is there. I think it would be the right thing to do for them to accept it, I hope they will.

“I think it is a good deal, which is fair, which recognises the situation they are in, recognises the need we all have got to tackle the backlog in the NHS.”

The BMA exchanged letters with the Government following Thursday’s announcement of a new offer to other NHS workers but no date has been announced for a meeting.

Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chair of the BMA’s junior doctors committee, said their position has been that they are “open to talk in good faith, meaningfully, at any time”.

He added: “We were ready to talk months ago. Our formal dispute started over 150 days ago and, again, that is just what I mean in that it is disappointing it has taken Steve Barclay so long to get to the negotiating table.

“I only hope that he does come with good faith and a mandate to negotiate.”

He confirmed there had been “correspondence” with the Government, adding that “it does look like we’ll be able to set something up in the near future.”

Nurses, paramedics, cleaners and porters should get a five per cent rise next month and a one-off bonus of at least £1,655 to help with the cost of living. The deal must now be backed by union members.

Downing Street said the new pay deal offered to striking health workers would cost an additional £4billion.

A No 10 spokesman said: “The non-consolidated element for 2022/23 is an additional investment of around £2.7 billion.

“The consolidated element for 2023/24 is an additional investment of around £1.3 billion”.

He would not detail how it will be funded, with the health department to hold discussions with the Treasury.

Meanwhile Government talks with teachers next week will include the National Education Union (NEU) and focus on pay, conditions and workload reduction.

The NEU, whose members were on strike earlier this week, confirmed no further strike dates in England will be announced for two weeks.

Four teachers’ unions – the Association of School and College Leaders, National Association of Head Teachers, NASUWT and the NEU – will all be involved in the discussions with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.

A joint statement by the Government and education unions said: “The talks will focus on teacher pay, conditions and workload reduction.

“In order for talks to begin and, we hope, reach a successful conclusion, the NEU has confirmed it will create a period of calm for two weeks during which time they have said no further strike dates will be announced.

“The Education Secretary and all unions will meet today, beginning intensive talks, which will continue over the weekend.”

More than half of schools in England closed or restricted attendance on Wednesday and Thursday.

Meanwhile, rail union workers will cripple services across the country tomorrow because of another strike by rail workers in the long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.

Members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) at 14 train operators will walk out, causing disruption to thousands of train passengers.

People were warned to check before they travel, with trains set to start later and finish earlier than usual – typically between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

RMT members went on strike on Thursday and more stoppages are planned on March 30 and April 1.

Steve Montgomery, who chairs the Rail Delivery Group, said: “This latest round of strikes will be a further inconvenience to our customers, who have already experienced months of disruption, and cost our people even more money at a time they can least afford it.

“They will also be asking why the RMT leadership blocked the chance to resolve this dispute by refusing to give their members – many of whom would have benefited from a 13 per cent increase – a say on their own deal.”

Mick Lynch, RMT’s general secretary, said: “The private rail companies are in complete chaos, unable to make an improved offer to resolve our dispute and demonstrably failing to run the railways when we’re not on strike.”

Strikes by university lecturers and other higher education workers will go ahead next week despite hopes of a breakthrough in a long-running dispute over pay, contracts and pensions.

Members of the University and College Union have been taking industrial action for months, including this week.

The union’s higher education committee today voted to continue action and also not to put employer proposals to members to vote on.

This means that strikes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday next week are still on.

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