Underwhelmed by government pay rises, UK's doctors, nurses and teachers mull strikes

·1-min read
Health workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic outside the Royal London Hospital in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's nurses, doctors and teachers moved towards strike action on Wednesday, demanding wages keep pace with soaring prices as the government defended its decision to award below-inflation pay rises for public sector workers.

A day after ministers announced a series of pay rises for two million public sector staff, official data showed inflation hitting a 40-year high of 9.4% in June, and several workers' unions mooted industrial action.

The pay settlements were as high as 9.3% for the lowest earners in Britain's publicly funded National Health Service, but for many fell far short of the rate at which prices are rising.

The Royal College of Nursing said it had decided to ballot members on whether they wanted to take industrial action.

"This is a grave misstep by ministers. With this low award, the government is misjudging the mood of nursing staff and the public too," said the RCN's Chief Executive Pat Cullen.

"Living costs are rising and yet they have enforced another real-terms pay cut on nursing staff."

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, said it was on a "collision course" with the government and the National Education Union, which represents teachers, said it would recommend strikes unless the government renegotiates.

Treasury minister Simon Clarke said the settlements were "extremely generous" by recent standards.

"We're trying to strike the right balance between recognising the vital service that all of these 2 million people bring to our country, but also balancing that against the risk of fuelling the inflation problem and making it more permanent and harder to tackle quickly, by setting above inflation pay," he told Times Radio.

(Reporting by William James; editing by James Davey)

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