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Sunak tells unions to halt strike action after offering public sector pay rises

Sunak tells unions to halt strike action after offering public sector pay rises

It comes following recommendations from pay review bodies

Rishi Sunak has urged unions to call off strike action after accepting recommendations for pay rises for millions of public sector workers.

The Prime Minister accepted the recommendations from pay review bodies, including 6.5% increases for teachers in England for 2023-24, which education unions said could allow them to call off strike action.

Junior doctors, who began their longest walkout yet in England on Thursday, will receive 6% rises, along with an additional consolidated £1,250 increase.

Hospital consultants, set to strike in England next week, will also receive a 6% rise.

Mr Sunak called on the British Medical Association to help “make the NHS strong again” by returning doctors to the wards.

“The Government has not only made today’s decision on pay. We’ve backed the NHS with record funding, delivered the first ever, fully funded long-term workforce plan and met the BMA’s number one ask of government, with a pensions tax cut worth £1 billion.

“So, we should all ask ourselves, whether union leaders – or indeed political leaders – how can it be right to continue disruptive industrial action?

“Not least because these strikes lead to tens of thousands of appointments being cancelled – every single day and waiting lists going up, not down.”

At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Sunak said: “Today’s offer is final. There will be no more talks on pay. We will not negotiate again on this year’s settlements and no amount of strikes will change our decision.”

He said the accepted recommendations are a “fair deal for the British taxpayer”.

But with no new borrowing to fund deals, Mr Sunak said government departments will have to “reprioritise” spending – raising fears of cuts across public services.

Details of the deals, given by Treasury Chief Secretary John Glen in the Commons, include:

– Policing will receive a 7% headline rise.

– Prison officers in the operational bands will receive an increase of 7%, with larger rises for support grades.

– Armed forces will receive a 5% rise, with an additional consolidated £1,000 increase.

The 6.5% pay award for teachers will be “fully funded”, the Government said, with £525 million of additional funding for schools in 2023-24 and a further £900 million in 2024-25.

The Government set out some changes to raise around £1 billion of additional money to fund the rises, including increasing the immigrant health surcharge to £1,035.

Fees will be increased across a range of immigration and nationality routes, including a rise in the cost of work and visit visas by 15%, and increasing the cost of study visas, certificates of sponsorship, wider entry clearance, leave-to-remain and priority visas among others by at least 20%.

But the bulk of the money will have to come from existing budgets.

Mr Sunak said “it’s not about cuts” but about departments “reprioritising”.

“We are asking departments to reprioritise to support public sector workers and that will mean in other areas – it’s not about cuts, it’s just about focusing on public sector workers’ pay rather than other things.

“And I’m really pleased that the teaching unions specifically have said that this pay offer is properly funded.”

He insisted “no cuts will need to be made” in schools.

The Prime Minister and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan along with the leaders of the four education unions issued a joint statement setting out how the agreement could end strike action.

The statement said: “The Government has committed that all schools will receive additional funding above what was proposed in March – building on the additional £2 billion given to schools in the Autumn Statement. The Government will also provide a hardship fund of up to £40 million to support those schools facing the greatest financial challenges.

“ASCL, NAHT, NASUWT and NEU will now put this deal to members, with a recommendation to accept the STRB recommendation. This deal will allow teachers and school leaders to call off strike action and resume normal relations with government.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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