RCN General Secretary tells LBC how the govt can end strike action

15 December 2022, 15:40 | Updated: 16 December 2022, 06:32

General Secretary of RCN Pat Cullen speaks from a picket line.

By Abbie Reynolds

As the nurses' strikes set in RCN's General Secretary Pat Cullen speaks to James O'Brien.

Nurses represented by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) took to picket lines on Thursday for the first of two twelve-hour strikes.

The General Secretary & Chief Executive of RCN Pat Cullen spoke to James O'Brien from the protests.

Since the Prime Minister has failed to negotiate an agreement with the RCN to avert strike action, James asked Pat Cullen: "Why do you think he won't open that conversation?"

READ MORE: Striking nurses asking for 19% pay rise is unaffordable demand as Brits face cost of living, health sec insists

Pat told James she didn't know the answer, she said she was "on a picket line in Reading amongst many brilliant nurses" who are asking the same question, asking: "Why will no one sit down with you as our leader and do the decent thing and negotiate our pay?"

There are "nurses working five days a week and getting paid for four and that's a fact" she explained.

"Any government that can turn their backs on these people needs to hold up a mirror and ask themselves why."

Pat then went on to send a message directly to the government: "To both the Prime Minister and to the Secretary of State come out of your warm offices today and put on a warm coat and stand on a picket line.

"You'll go back with different energy, you'll go back with different determination and different courage. It'll be about doing the right thing, it won't be about balancing the books. It will be that you really care about the value and treatment of our patients and our patients deserve that."

Explaining that last year's three per cent pay increase for the NHS isn't adequate she told James there are nurses having to take "payday loans" and "maxing out on credit cards".

Reacting to accusations that the government would be "undermining" independent pay review bodies by agreeing on a pay rise in line with inflation she added:

"The government can step outside the pay review body recommendations but they choose not to do this, they choose not to do the decent thing for nursing and when they turn their back on nursing they turn their back on patients."

James asked: "How does it end Pat?"

"If you came down to this picket line today and felt this energy of these brilliant, brilliant nurses - it will end when they do the right thing for these people.

"The nurses are saying today, we've got our voice back, we're going to speak up, we're going to keep speaking up and we're not going to turn our back on our patients."

"I'm not going to turn my back on the wonderful profession that I have the privilege of representing."

Nurses demand a pay rise at picket line in London

Pat said if the Prime Minister had sat down to negotiate a deal with the RCN "there would have been a different feel today", telling James she would have told him "my door now is wide open".

"But he has chosen to keep them out in the cold today," she said.

"He has closed his doors, they're in their warm offices and our lowest-paid nurses are standing out on the picket line today losing a day's pay."

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