A poll reveals the number one reason cited by Brexit voters for changing their minds about leaving the EU; Rishi Sunak says the government wants to hold talks with union bosses next week as a wave of strikes continues.
A two-year pay deal has been offered to the drivers’ union by the train operating companies.
The Rail Delivery Group said it was tabling a “landmark outline proposal” that it said will result in more reliable services for passengers and pay increases of 4% for 2022 and 4% for this year.
There is also a commitment for no compulsory redundancies until at least March 31 2024.
A statement said: “The offer is contingent on common sense, vital and long overdue changes to working arrangements across the industry.
“Many of these are already best practice in parts of the railway and are designed to avoid disruptive gaps in services.
“If accepted, the proposal would mean the base salary for the average driver would increase from £60,000, to almost £65,000 by the end of 2023.”
Aslef said it had not seen the offer.
Ambulance workers who are members of Unite will go on strike on 23 January in a dispute over pay, the union has said.
As with previous industrial action, Unite’s representatives will work at a local level to agree derogations to make sure emergency cover is in place during the strike.
The ambulance workers will walk out for 24 hours from 0001 until 2359 in Wales, the North West, North East and East Midlands. The West Midlands strike will last for 12 hours from 0600 to 1800.
Unite members who work for the Welsh Ambulance Service will also be taking an initial day of industrial action on 19 January, while ambulance workers in Unison will strike on 23 January.
Unison and the GMB will hold a joint ambulance strike next Wednesday.
General secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite’s ambulance workers have been left with no option but to take industrial action.
“They are fighting to protect patients, to save the ambulance service and the NHS itself, as well as providing for their families.
“The government has had months to intervene and end this dispute but has failed to do so.
“They choose to attack NHS workers rather than get more money for the NHS from profiteering companies. They repeatedly refuse to sit down and negotiate in order to resolve the dispute.
“The talks the government has lined up for Monday yet again look like nothing more than a smokescreen and are clearly not a negotiation on NHS pay.
“But this is real and urgent. NHS staff need their bills paying now. Vital health workers are leaving the service now. Patients are suffering and dying now.
“The prime minister needs to step up to the moment and lead. That is what he is paid for.”
Analysis by Paul Kelso, business correspondent
Rail minister Huw Merriman will meet union leaders including Mick Lynch of the RMT on Monday after three weeks of unseasonal disruption left the two sides apparently as far apart as ever.
While both say they are ready to talk, unions remain committed to further strikes if required and the government is legislating to limit industrial action, an inauspicious background to the first direct talks between ministers and bosses since November.
Ultimately, progress will depend on concessions on both sides, but at its heart are financial considerations that have changed radically in the three years since COVID-19.
These changes, driven by necessity and government strategy, have fundamentally altered the incentives for the constituent parts of the fiendishly complex rail network to do a deal.
Understanding those changes may help explain why a dispute that began in high summer seems no closer to resolution in the depths of the following winter.
You can read more of Paul’s assessment of the impasse between the government and the rail unions here:
Nurses have said they will call off strike action later this month if the government discusses pay for this year – but ministers are standing by their refusal not to.
Rishi Sunak dodged answering whether talks the government has invited all unions to next week will include discussions about pay for the 2022-23 financial year – of which three full months are left.
Sky News understands the government has ruled out negotiating this year’s pay as it is nearly the end of the financial year and public sector pay was discussed and concluded before this year started.
Asked whether talks next week will include discussions about this year’s pay, the prime minister said on Friday: “What we’ve said is 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.
“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 will be constructive and we can find a way through this.”
On Thursday, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said it would accept a pay rise of around 10%, instead of 19%, to end its dispute with the government.
Nurses walked out for the first time in the RCN’s history on two days in December and after failing to come to a deal with the government they are set to strike again on 18 and 19 January.
But after Mr Sunak indicated talks would not include this year’s pay, an RCN spokeswoman said: “Like late last year, we will always meet the health secretary to discuss the issues.
“But negotiations about pay for the current year, not next year, are what we need to call off this month’s strike action.
“The government should meet us halfway and get these negotiations moving – the ball is in their court.”
You can read more from political reporter Alix Culbertson here:
The UK is facing a fresh wave of strikes in January, with transport workers, NHS staff and civil servants set to take part in industrial action.
Tens of thousands of workers are expected to take industrial action this month, seeking better pay and conditions.
It comes after unions launched a series of strikes in December, including the largest NHS strike in history and the biggest walkout of ambulance staff in three decades.
Sky News looks at the industries that are set to strike in January, when and why.
Katharine Birbalsingh has quit as the government’s social mobility tsar, saying she has “too much baggage” which is doing “more harm than good”.
Ms Birbalsingh is also known as Britain’s strictest headteacher, and set up the Michaela Community School in Brent.
She was appointed to her role advising the government in 2021.
Announcing her resignation, Ms Birbalsingh said some of her “controversial” statements had put the work of the Social Mobility Commission in jeopardy.
She was criticised on one occasion for saying that girls do not tend to study physics because of the “hard maths” involved.
Writing of her departure in Schools Week, Ms Birbalsingh said: “I come with too much baggage.
“Over this past year, I have become increasingly aware that my propensity to voice opinions that are considered controversial puts the commission in jeopardy.”
“As headmistress at Michaela, my governors can decide whether or not they wish to employ me despite my outspoken nature. So I feel free to comment on society.
“But as chair of the commission, people feel I need to be impartial and it irks many that for many years I have been anything but.
“So in some people’s minds, I am not right for the job.
“Sadly, I have come to agree.
“The commission team have been nothing but supportive, but I worry that all of our excellent work will be ignored by virtue of my presence.”
Equalities minister Kemi Badenoch said Alun Francis, the principal of Oldham College and deputy chair of the commission, would take on the role on an interim basis.
Writing to Ms Bribalsingh, Ms Badenoch said: “My ministerial colleagues and I are very grateful for your time as chair, and I want to offer you my congratulations on successfully giving the organisation a strong sense of direction and purpose.
“I know that the commission under Alun Francis will continue to champion and improve social mobility across the UK, and build upon the work that you have undertaken.”
Political editor Beth Rigby interviewed Ms Birbalsingh earlier this year – you can listen to the podcast below.
Ambulance workers in Wales are to go on strike later this month.
Members of Unite will withdraw their labour on 19 and 23 January for 24 hours.
Life-threatening incidents will still be covered.
The move follows similar strikes in England last month.
Yesterday, the Westminster government announced plans for new laws which would require ambulance workers – as well as firefighting staff and rail operators – to provide a legally mandated minimum service level during strikes.
Union in Wales stated that, while they are negotiating with the Welsh government, the “crisis has arisen” because of Westminster.
Unite’s regional officer for Wales, Richard Munn, added: “The anger that has led to this strike is about more than just pay.
“Staff are exhausted and stressed and the meagre pay increase was the final straw for most.
“We know that the Welsh government has limited finances, but Unite is imploring them to come to the table with an increased offer, as was the case in Scotland.
“Unite recognises that the crisis has arisen because of the Westminster government’s deliberate failure to fund a decent NHS pay rise across the UK.
“While the UK government seems oblivious to the anger and frustration of NHS workers, the Welsh government has shown that it does understand the issues. But now it needs to act.”
A Welsh government spokeswoman said: “We understand and respect the strength of feeling among Unite members at the Wales Ambulance Service which have led to this strike action.
“Following the ballot result, we will work with the ambulance service and health boards on their contingency plans.
“The public should be assured that arrangements will be made with unions to ensure there will always be a safe level of staffing, with life-saving and life-maintaining care being provided during any industrial action.”
Health Secretary Steve Barclay says he is “looking forward” to talking with the Royal College of Nurses to discuss pay.
The government has invited unions to speak with relevant departments to try to find a way through the current strikes.
The RCN’s general secretary, Pat Cullen, has indicated she may be willing to drop her pay demands from a 19% rise to a 10% uplift instead.
Asked about this, Mr Barclay said: “I’m keen to have a dialogue with Pat Cullen and the RCN, I wrote to them last week looking at the coming year, at the pressures from inflation and cost of living, how we could work together to make any settlement more affordable in terms of looking at more productivity opportunities that are what efficiency opportunities there are because there’s common ground in recognising that the NHS is under pressure, and we need to respond to that.
“So I look forward to talking with the RCN and the other trade unions to see how do we make any settlement done through the independent pay review body more affordable.”
Pushed on whether the 10% offer from Ms Cullen was something he would entertain, Mr Barclay said: “Well, the RCN actually turned down an offer in Scotland, which was 7.5% and significantly more than 10% if you look to the other things within that package.
“But the key thing is to look at the coming year, the pay review body will be looking at the pressure of cost of living, the pressure on inflation, the scope for us to see how we make that more affordable by working together on issues of productivity, on issues of efficiency.
“I wrote to Pat about that last night. I hope she engages constructively on that.
“It’s important we work together to ensure that the evidence that goes to the independent pay review body for this coming year reflects the pressure that the NHS is on, but also what is affordable to the wider economy.”
But the RCN says they want to talk about the pay for the financial year we’re currently in.
A spokesman said: “Like late last year, we will always meet the health secretary to discuss the issues.
“But negotiations about pay for the current year, not next year, are what we need to call off this month’s strike action.”
“The government should meet us half way and get these negotiations moving – the ball is in their court.”
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