Sunak says Britain cannot afford ‘massive’ pay rises for nurses

Rishi Sunak has warned the government cannot afford “massive” pay rises for nurses as he continues to take a hard line ahead of a new wave of strikes next week.

In an interview with Piers Morgan on TalkTV, the Prime Minister said nurses should be “an exception” to general wage moderation, but added that the NHS needed general investment and money was tight.

“Nurses should be an exception and that’s because they’re doing an incredible job for all of us and have proven it during the pandemic,” he said, adding that he shielded them from broader wage restraint during the Covid-19 outbreak exempted in the public sector.

He added: “I would love to give the nurses a massive raise. Who wouldn’t? That would certainly make my life easier, wouldn’t it?”

Members of the Royal College of Nursing will strike again next week on Monday and Tuesday. The organization issued a statement saying, “In the failure of governments to act, we have been forced to escalate our strike action.”

The RCN has called for a 19 per cent pay rise, a demand rejected by both Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labor leader.

Sunak’s rejection of a “massive” pay rise for nurses leaves wiggle room and Steve Barclay, Health Secretary, has proposed giving nurses a lump sum payment or backdating a more generous pay rise – expected in April – to early 2023.

So far Sunak and the Treasury have refused to approve such a bid, despite the spate of strikes affecting many sectors of the UK economy eroding support for the Prime Minister.

But Sunak insisted in the interview he was willing to make tough decisions, keep pay low to find money to invest more broadly in the NHS and as part of a bid to control inflation.

In the same interview, Sunak also pledged to take tough action against migration, including introducing a new law to prevent illegal migrants from staying in the UK.

However, he suggested that tackling the “small boats” problem could be a prelude to a more liberal legal migration regime, something business groups are demanding to address acute labor shortages.

“Once we get a grip on this system and largely stem the flow of illegal migrants, we can have a much more sane conversation as a country by saying, well, who do we want to take from where and how many?” he said. Sunak says Britain cannot afford ‘massive’ pay rises for nurses

Adam Bradshaw

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