Belfast Telegraph

Fresh talks in health pay dispute

Further talks are to be held in a bid to avert a strike by thousands of NHS workers in a bitter dispute over pay.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt called in officials from several unions to try to persuade them to call off planned walkouts next week.

After meeting for over an hour it was announced that fresh negotiations will be held tomorrow.

Christina McAnea, national officer of Unison, said the minister had not committed to more money for pay.

"But it is good that we are still talking about trying to find a way to resolve the pay issue and maintain staffing levels."

GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: "GMB welcome this first opportunity to have talks with the Secretary of State for Health to see if we can avert the strikes in the NHS.

"We will meet with officials in the morning and with the Secretary of State again tomorrow evening."

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: "We welcome these talks between the Health Secretary and unions which aim to ensure patient safety is maintained during periods of industrial action.

"Employers are already preparing to minimise disruption to patients during next week's action. Our immediate focus must be to continue good local partnership working and communication between employers and unions, ensuring safe emergency care on the day and efficient rescheduling of appointments when necessary.

"We continue to believe that striking isn't the right solution and only disrupts and distresses patients. We need to find a way to resolve this dispute with a long-term sustainable plan which takes us past this period of pay restraint."

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