Health Secretary Steve Barclay has said nurses have been offered a “fair pay rise” this year, following news they will stage two days of strike action next month.
In a tweet on Friday morning, Mr Barclay said: “We have accepted recommendations from the independent NHS Pay Watch Authority to give nurses a fair pay rise of at least £1,400 this year. This means a newly qualified nurse will typically earn more than £31,000 a year.
“[The Royal College of Nursing (RCN)] It calls for a massive pay rise of 17.6% – almost three times the average settlement received by millions of hard-working people outside the public sector,” he said.
The RCN said the £1,400 figure was false, with experienced nurses actually 20% worse off in real terms due to consistently below-inflation premiums since 2010.
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The union has now announced that its members will hold their first national marches on December 15 and 20. The holidays will last 12 hours.
This comes after his offer of talks as an alternative to industrial action was rejected by the government.
The strikes will take place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and this is a significant increase in the ongoing pay range.
In Scotland, the RCN has stopped short of announcing strike action after the Scottish Government reopened NHS pay negotiations.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “It’s been more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt unfairly treated for the first time to go on strike.
“My offer of formal talks was rejected and ministers opted for strike action instead. They have the power and the means to stop this by starting serious negotiations that resolve our dispute.
“Nurses were under-recruited, under-paid and dangerously staffing levels, enough to prevent them from giving our patients the care they deserve.”
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said: “Why on earth is the Health Secretary refusing to negotiate with nurses? Patients are already unable to get timely treatment, strike action is the last thing they need, but the Government is allowing it. Patients will never forgive conservatives for this negligence.