Ministers shot down demands from a nursing union for a double-digit pay rise just weeks after it backed a Government pay offer.
Nurses will receive around £5,000 in a settlement backed by other NHS unions – but the Royal College of Nursing wants to resume negotiating for more.
Energy Secretary Grant Shapps said it was “odd” that RCN general secretary Pat Cullen had recommended the five percent deal and a one-off bonus, but now wanted twice that.
He said the Government had to balance such pay demands with pressures on the “rest of the public purse”.
Mr Shapps told Sophy Ridge on Sky News: “Pat Cullen just recently was encouraging her members to settle for the pay rise.
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Ministers shot down demands from a
“I thought this was a great settlement. I thought it’s terrific that it had been reached.
“It’s frankly rather confusing now that having encouraged her members to accept that deal, she seems to now be coming back and saying the opposite.”
RCN members will begin a fresh ballot for strike action on May 23 – the existing six-month mandate ran out this month. Ms Cullen admitted she had misjudged the mood of members after they narrowly rejected the offer.
She added: “I may personally have underestimated the members and their sheer determination.
“I think what I would be saying to the Prime Minister is ‘Don’t – don’t make that same mistake’.
“Nurses believe it’s their duty and their responsibility because this Government is not listening to them on how to bring [the NHS] back from the brink and the message to the Prime Minister is that they are absolutely not going to blink first.”
Most health unions backed the pay offer, which means it was ratified and will be paid to nurses regardless of any industrial action.
A Department of Health source said: “The Health Secretary’s door is open to discuss how we can make the NHS a better place to work for all staff – but in terms of pay, as Pat Cullen herself said, the offer was final.
“It is time to move on from industrial action and work together to deliver for patients.”
Senior doctors in England vote today on striking over pay.
Dr Vishal Sharma, head of the BMA consultants committee, said take-home pay had fallen by 35 percent since 2008-9 “even before the impact of this year’s soaring inflation. The final offer from Government represented yet another real-terms pay cut.”