“We want to have a grown up, honest conversation with all union leaders about what is responsible, what is reasonable and what is affordable for our country when it comes to pay,” said Sunak.
By: Melvin Samuel
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Friday he was hoping for constructive talks with trade union leaders next week, as thousands of workers in industries from rail to healthcare take strike action in disputes over pay.
“We want to have a grown-up, honest conversation with all union leaders about what is responsible, what is reasonable and what is affordable for our country when it comes to pay,” Sunak told reporters during a visit to a school in London.
“We think that those conversations should happen. That’s why we’ve invited everyone in to have those talks on Monday and I’m hopeful that those talks can be constructive.”
The government has called on unions to cancel strikes while it holds talks, but also plans to bring in legislation to make key public services like ambulances maintain minimum safety levels during industrial action by staff.
Late on Thursday, Unite, one of Britain’s largest trade unions, criticised the government’s offer of talks as “game-playing and gimmicks” and said its planned strikes, which include ambulance workers in Wales this month, would go ahead.
Tens of thousands of workers across several sectors have taken strike action over the last few months as they demand pay rises that better reflect double-digit levels of inflation.
Among the latest to resort to industrial action are workers at the government’s Environment Agency. A union representing junior doctors in England on Friday said they would walk out for 72 hours in March if a ballot for strikes is successful.
Some 40,000 rail workers began another 48-hour strike on Friday in a long-running dispute, while nurses are due to walk out again on Jan. 18 and 19.