Pressure on Llanelli MS to apologise for RCN remarks

The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters MS has come under further pressure to apologise for remarks about the RCN.

During the Plenary of 14th March Conservative Leader Andrew RT Davies asked the First Minister: First Minister if it would be appropriate for Lee Waters to apologise.

The Conservative Leader said: “Last week, one of your Ministers called the Royal College of Nursing an ‘extremely militant’ organisation. He also said they were ‘determined to have a fight’, and aren’t seriously willing to negotiate. That’s a direct quote. Is that your take on the RCN and the dispute that they’re engaged with with your Government over nurses’ pay?

The First Minister responded: “I’m First Minister, not a commentator on what other people say. What I can do is to be clear about the Welsh Government’s position: we approach all industrial matters as a Government on the basis of social partnership. The RCN is a long-standing and valued member of the social partnership arrangements we have in health, and they are there today in the room discussing with employers and the Welsh Government ways in which we can continue to improve the performance of our national health service and the way in which those workers who we rely upon within it can be properly rewarded for the work that they do.”

Andrew RT Davies continued to pursue the call for an apology by saying: “I’m pleased that you clarified what the Government’s view is on what the RCN stands for—it is a view that I have—and also I declare an interest in having family members who are members of the Royal College of Nursing, a dedicated professional body of people who look after us in our time of need in hospitals and community settings. But do you not think it would be appropriate for a Minister, Deputy Minister, to actually apologise for those remarks that have caused upset to nurses within the profession, who do not want to be on strike, who are not a militant organisation and aren’t up for the fight? They just want to get on with the job of looking after the patients who they care so passionately about.”

The First Minister pointed out the difficulties faced by members of the RCN following a decade of austerity. He said: You will never find a Welsh Government Minister who would say that public sector workers driven to that way of doing things don’t deserve to be respected, and they are respected here in Wales, and they are included, as I say, within the social partnership arrangements.

“Many people say, in the heat of the moment, things. I’ve been reading what was being said between the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Education when they competed with one another to criticise teachers during the COVID outbreak. I think those things are better put on one side. I’ve set out the position of the Government, and unambiguously that is one of inclusion, respect and joint approaches to problem solving.

Andrew R.T. Davies MS offered to clarify what Lee Waters had said saying: “First Minister, you said that a Government Minister has not said that and doesn’t support it. I gave you a direct quote of what the Deputy Minister said. That is a matter of fact. It is a matter of record, and people will see what the Minister said in the context of the Royal College of Nursing.”

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