A planned walkout by nurses in England is on hold after unions and the U.K. government agreed to enter “intensive” talks over pay.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) have been pushing for an above-inflation pay increase to make up for a real-terms hit to wages over the past decade, but U.K. ministers have argued such a move risks stoking inflation at a sensitive time for the British economy.
But, in a joint statement Tuesday night, the government and RCN said they had “agreed to enter a process of intensive talks.”
Both sides, the statement said, “are committed to finding a fair and reasonable settlement that recognizes the vital role that nurses and nursing play in the National Health Service” as well as “the wider economic pressures facing the United Kingdom and the prime minister’s priority to halve inflation.”
Talks will, they said, “focus on pay, terms and conditions, and productivity-enhancing reforms.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay will meet RCN representatives on Wednesday to kick off the discussion, and the RCN will, the statement said, pause strike action while the talks are ongoing.
After walkouts in December and January, the RCN had been planning a further two days of action from March 1 to 3. The dispute comes amid a spate of industrial action in the U.K., with train drivers, paramedics and postal workers among those who have walked out.