UK strikes to continue after govt's talks with unions fail

LONDON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Britain will face more strikes by workers demanding higher pay after meetings between ministers and trade unions on Monday failed to end a wave of stoppages across sectors from healthcare to transport.

More than 10,000 ambulance workers will walk out on Wednesday as planned, the GMB union said in a statement, after talks with health minister Steve Barclay failed to produce a breakthrough.

"There was some engagement on pay - but not a concrete offer that could help resolve this dispute and make significant progress," GMB national secretary Rachel Harrison said.

With pay rises failing to keep up with double-digit inflation, which is now around 40-year highs, nurses, ambulance staff and rail workers are among those who have staged walkouts, with teachers also being balloted over action.

Teaching unions, who will announce the result of their strike ballots later this week, met with the education minister, while the health minister also spoke to unions representing nurses. The transport minister was due to meet rail unions.

The RCN, representing nurses, called the meeting with Barclay "bitterly disappointing". It said there was a long way to go if ministers want to avert nurses strikes scheduled for Jan. 18 and 19.

Unions Unite and Unison, both representing health workers, also condemned the government's approach. Unite's Onay Kasab said the government made it clear that it wanted to discuss productivity savings in return for a further pay award.

"We're talking about people who are working well beyond their contracted hours anyway, just to get the job done," he told reporters. "Today is an insult to our members."

Unions have said they will only call off strikes in the next few weeks if offers are made to resolve the disputes over this year's pay settlement, while the government wants to focus on pay rises for the next financial year.

The government has argued that inflation-matching pay rises will only fuel further price increases and cause interest rates and mortgage payments to go up further.

During a visit to a health centre earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters the government was happy to discuss pay demands which were "anchored in what's reasonable, what's responsible, what's affordable for the country."

Asked about media reports the government was considering making a one-off payment to nurses to help with the cost of living, Sunak declined to comment on specifics.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Sarah Young, additional reporting by Farouq Suleiman; editing by Toby Chopra

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.