Keir Starmer slams Rishi Sunak over nurses strike as a ‘badge of shame’ for the government

The nurses join hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers who are striking this December.


With nurses strikes set to go ahead this week across England, Wales and Northern Ireland,  marking the first time that the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is set to go on strike in its 106-year history, Labour leader Keir Starmer slammed Rishi Sunak at PMQs for his handling of the dispute.

As many as 100,000 members of the Royal College of Nursing are set to go on strike from Thursday over poor pay and working conditions.

The nurses join hundreds of thousands of other public sector workers who are striking this December, including rail staff, postal workers, civil servants and ambulance drivers. At the centre of the disputes is pay, which is failing to keep pace with inflation that hit a 41-year high of 11.1% in October.

The RCN is asking for a 19% pay rise — a 5% uplift on inflation of 14%, as measured by October’s retail price index — and for the government to fill a record number of staff vacancies that, it argues, is jeopardizing patient safety.

It has also said that it would pause strikes if the Health Secretary agreed to talks over pay, however the government has rejected the offer.

Starmer told Rishi Sunak at PMQs today that all he had to do to prevent the strikes going ahead was open the door and discuss pay with them.

He said: “If he did the whole country would breathe a sigh of relief. Why won’t he?”

Sunak reiterated that the government had consistently spoken to all the unions involved, however Starmer said that nurses going on strike was “a badge of shame for this government”.

He went on to highlight the human cost of the strikes, asking about a boy, Alex, who was off school in pain waiting for a gall bladder operation, whose mum was desperate for the strike to be called off.

The Labour leader also called on Sunak to scrap non-dom status to fund more healthcare staff. He said: “Scrap the non-Dom status and use the money to bring through the next generation of doctors and nurses, that’s what Labour would do. Why hasn’t he got the guts to do it?”

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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