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Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said nurses shouldn’t go on strike amid continued anger at the government’s recommendation of a 1% pay rise for NHS staff.
Starmer, appearing on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show, said “there’s an injustice here that needs to be addressed” but added: “Nobody wants a strike.”
It comes after the Royal College of Nursing pledged to establish a £35m fund to support members wanting to strike over the pay move.
The proposed 1% pay rise has been widely criticised as too low in light of the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen an outpouring of support for NHS workers.
Starmer, asked if he would support a strike by nurses, said: “I don’t think nurses want to go on strike, certainly none of them that I’ve been talking to.”
When pressed to answer the question, he stated: “I don’t want to see strikes.
“Strikes, while we’re still dealing with COVID and we’ve then got the backlog [of non-COVID healthcare] coming down the line… they’ve been put in this position by the government’s actions.
“But nobody wants a strike. Nurses and others don’t want a strike.”
Watch: ‘It’s not good enough just to clap’: Starmer on NHS pay (from Friday)
He added that “the ball’s in the government’s court to make sure that absolutely doesn’t happen”.
An Opinium poll carried out over the weekend suggested 72% of the population think the wage recommendation is too low.
During a visit to a vaccination centre in Brent in north-west London on Sunday, Boris Johnson – whose life was saved by NHS staff after he became seriously ill with coronavirus last spring, and who also took part in the national “clap for carers” events – insisted the government has tried to give NHS staff “as much as we possibly can”.
On Monday, Johnson’s official spokesman declined to rule out giving a one-off bonus to NHS workers when asked about the issue.
He said: “We have been clear that we think the 1% pay rise is what is affordable.
“I’m not going to comment on speculation. We’ve set out what we think is affordable, it’s now for the pay review body to look at that and look at the other evidence and come forward with their recommendation.”
Watch: How England is leaving lockdown