Sunak hopes to end strikes with pay deal

The British government is reportedly considering a deal that would put an end to a recent wave of strikes among public sector workers. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt are said to be exploring a plan that would backdate a pay rise due next year to January 2023. This would involve giving NHS staff and other key workers a lump-sum payment in April that would cover the period between January and April. Officials familiar with the matter told the Financial Times about the plan.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that Health Minister Steve Barclay has been discussing what would be affordable and fair for next year’s pay review body process with healthcare unions. The talks have focused on pay, working conditions, and workload. The DHSC has released a statement saying, “We want to strike the right balance between what is fair for public sector workers and what the taxpayer – ordinary people across the UK – can afford.”

The Financial Times also reported that a Treasury memorandum warned that a public sector pay rise of less than 5% for 2023-24 would carry a low risk of prolonging high private sector pay growth, while a 6% rise would worsen inflation. A 7% rise, the memo stated, would “pose a significant risk” and could bring about higher interest rates.

In recent months, the UK has witnessed strikes across the public and private sectors, including health and transport workers, Royal Mail postal staff, and Amazon warehouse employees. The strikers are demanding above-inflation pay rises to cover the cost of soaring food and energy bills that have left them struggling to make ends meet. However, the Royal College of Nursing, whose members have been taking part in strikes, has yet to respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

With inflation at its highest level in four decades, running at more than 10%, the British government is under increasing pressure to address the issue of pay rises for public sector workers.

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