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United chief claims No. 10 ‘does not want’ resolution of NHS strike

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Unite’s general secretary suggested the government “doesn’t want” to resolve the current NHS strikes so it can move towards privatization of the healthcare service.

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NHS staff walkouts in England and Wales – including ambulance crews, paramedics, technicians, call handlers and others – enter their third day – it still doesn’t look like a solution for the striking staff.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today program on Monday, Unite’s Sharon Graham explained that the NHS was already in crisis (even before the strike) and the government was still refusing to act.

Graham said: “The NHS is literally on its knees and patients are dying unnecessarily every day because of the crisis in the NHS.”

Explaining why members of his union are walking out, which only causes more disruption, Graham said: “What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to negotiate with the government .

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It’s been five weeks since the Unite ambulance drivers walked out, and in that time there have been no meetings about the core issue of pay.

“There have been a lot of talks about things other than salary. Now talks are on as to what could happen in the next round of salaries.

“They’re dancing around with their handbags and not coming to the table and negotiating salary.”

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NHS workers are demanding a pay rise in line with inflation (at 10.5% in December) after years of austerity.

“It’s out of desperation,” Graham continued. “I would have thought that, in five weeks, Stephen Barkley and Rishi Sunak could decide to come to the table and talk about salary.

“I am worried, I must tell you, that they do not want this dispute resolved.

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“I have never come across a situation where the CEO of a company, who is Rishi Sunak himself, is not coming to the table and trying to deal with it.

“He’s been missing in action and needs to get back involved.”

TODAY host Justin Webb asked what exactly Sunak meant when he said he didn’t want a resolution: “What could possibly be in it for him?”

“I’m seriously thinking it’s more honest than that,” Graham suggested. “It is an act of self-harm.

“The public is behind a pay rise for NHS staff. We have money to increase the pay of NHS staff.

“We are the fifth richest economy in the whole world. Why are they not coming to the table?

“I believe they have an agenda in terms of privatizing the NHS.”

Graham also spoke on comments from the former health secretary, Sajid Javid, who said at the weekend that people should probably pay £20 to see a GP, and £66 to go to A&E.

She said: “Sajid Javid’s comments over the weekend weren’t ‘whoopsie-daisy’ – they were very deliberate, they were a flag to see how it flies.”

She said that she had never been in a position in the past 30 years where “the people we’re trying to negotiate with don’t want resolution”, adding: “That’s not even on the table!”

Webb suggested that Graham’s claim was “an extraordinary allegation”, and asked: “What further evidence is there that they want to privatize the whole of the NHS?”

“Well, I was around when Jeremy Hunt was the health secretary and he wanted the NHS in the US trade deal.”

It is worth noting that Hunt later stated that the NHS would remain off-limits to any US companies if a UK-US trade deal were to go ahead.

Graham continued: “What we’re seeing now is such an act of self-harm, I can’t understand why the prime minister hasn’t come to the table, why the secretaries-general have said we’ll be there, at any time.” Any day any place he wants, come to the table and get this deal done.

Following Barkley’s claims that “constructive” discussions were taking place behind the scenes, Graham said: “There are no salary talks Justin, that’s the reality. It’s wrong to suggest they are.”

He continued: “The government is now ready to get it by the horns, Rishi Sunak needs to take responsibility, it’s clear Stephen Barkley has no right to deal, it’s crystal clear, so let’s have a Get the proper decision makers in the room and let’s get this deal done.



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