'As Long As It Takes': Union Boss Says NHS Strikes Will Continue Until Pay Demands Are Met

·3-min read
Workers on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in London.
Workers on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in London.

Workers on the picket line outside St Thomas' Hospital in London.

Strikes by NHS workers will continue for “as long as it takes”, a union boss has declared as thousands of staff stage another walkout.

Nurses and ambulance workers across England are taking part in a one-day strike as part of their months-long dispute over pay.

The trade union movement is split over the government’s offer of a one-off payment for last year and a 5% rise this year.

The deal has been accepted by members of Unison and the GMB, but rejected by Unite and the Royal College of Nursing.

The latest walkouts are taking place ahead of tomorrow’s meeting of the NHS staff council, which is made up of all the health unions and is expected to vote in favour of the government’s pay offer.

But on Sky News this morning, Unite national lead officer Onay Kasab said the strikes would continue until ministers come up with more cash.

He said: “We are confident when we take action that we can win and that’s why we’re taking action again today.

“Our members have been offered a pay rise that is well below inflation levels. The one-off lump sum does nothing for the recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS, so our members will have our 100% support in taking action today and in escalating if the government doesn’t listen.”

Asked how long long the walkouts could go on for, he said: “Our members are continuing to vote for strike action. We are recruiting new NHS workers into Unite the Union and they are joining because they want to take action.

“What we will do, where we have a mandate for strike action at the moment, we will extend the action. And we will be balloting in new areas where as a result of our consultation those new members have voted in high numbers to reject.

“So as long as it takes. Our members do not want to be taking strike action and do it with a heavy heart, but they are doing it not just about pay, but about the future of the NHS.”

He added: “We’re seeing massive public support and I think that will continue because the public recognise that we need to properly reward NHS workers.

Rishi Sunak needs to roll his sleeves up, stop talking about maths lessons and get involved with the negotiations here so that we can resolve this.”

Health secretary Steve Barclay said: “These strikes will put more pressure on the NHS and will be incredibly disruptive for patients.

“People should attend appointments unless told otherwise by the NHS, continue to call 999 in a life-threatening emergency and use NHS 111 online services for non-urgent health needs.”