Government keen to bring ‘forever strikes’ to an end, says Business Secretary

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The Government is making a “big push” to bring an end to “forever strikes” in the public sector, said Business Secretary Grant Shapps.

Asked about reports that the Government is prepared to make an improved offer to nurses, he told GB News: “I should say, on those independent pay review bodies, they took into account inflation and projected inflation in reaching those numbers and it is right that it is done independently of government.”

The Business Secretary continued: “That’s fair, because there’s a cost to everyone with pay rises, whether it’s railway workers or train drivers or people in the NHS, the rest of the society obviously has to pick up the bill for that.

“It’s a question of getting that balance right and then in terms of the question about why now, well, a lot of these strikes, particularly in the transport sector, have been running for a very long time and they’ve sort of turned into almost forever strikes and we want to constructively work to bring that to an end if we possibly can.

“It’s a new year and so we’re trying to encourage everybody to get to the table to see if we can find solutions and that’s that’s the big push from the Government’s point of view. It’s important that we bring these strikes to a close.”

Asked by Eamonn Holmes if public sector workers, transport workers and posties should be looking for new jobs, Mr Shapps said: “That wouldn’t be my advice, but you pick a couple of interesting sectors of the economy because they’ve obviously changed radically.

“People don’t send letters like they used to in the past, but there is a big and growing parcel business. And on the trains, people don’t use tickets like they did in the past. You don’t need people collecting tickets in the same way…

“Some of these working practices which go back to the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s could be modernised and actually modernise the safety of our railways as well.

“There’s been a lot of objection to making those kinds of changes but therein lies the solution, because if you can modernise, you can also pay people better in return for that improvement in productivity and that’s one of the things that clearly makes a lot of sense.”

Asked if there could be an impending breakthrough with nurses, he said: “Unison said that they thought that some progress had been made.

“But look, everybody wants this to come to a conclusion. It’s in the interest of everybody, both those who are striking and obviously the country as a whole too.

“People like nurses do a terrific job and did through Covid, which is why they were the only ones to get a pay rise in the public sector last year and we hope that we can find a way forward to a settlement.

“But today in Parliament, I’ll be introducing a minimum safety level service level bill, which will sort of say we will never withdraw the right to strike from people but when there are strikes on, life and limb must come first and there has to be a minimum safety standard put in place for for that.”

He added: “First of all, just in terms of timetable, I don’t think the legislation will take as much as six months, but actually I should say we don’t really ever want to have to use that legislation.

“In those most recent strikes, the Royal College of Nursing agreed a set national level of support. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get there with ambulances across the country, meaning there was a bit of a postcode lottery as to whether an ambulance would turn up in the case of something serious, like a heart attack or a stroke, and we can’t have that.

“So common sense tells us that we need to have minimum safety levels, which is what I’ll I’ll introduce, but I just want to also remind everyone the Government has accepted in full, the independent Pay Review Body’s recommendations for pay, so we’re the ones who have actually accepted it obviously takes two to tango, and that’s why these talks are going on.”

Source: GB News

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