Zahawi claims that Christmas chaos ‘is what Putin wants’

Nurse says she'll strike after government response to union action

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Nadhim Zahawi repeatedly told broadcasters this morning that those going on strike this winter were playing into Vladimir Putin’s hands. The Conservative Party chairman told nurses to accept a lower pay rise “to send a message” to President Putin. The remarks sparked a backlash, with several nurses who were not going to strike claiming that Mr Zahawi’s remarks had changed their minds.

This comes as nurses, among other public sector workers, are threatening Christmas chaos by going on strikes this month.

The Tory chairman claimed that nurses going on strike would expose a “divided” UK when a united front is needed over Russia’s “illegal war”.

Mr Zahawi said this morning: “They should reflect on this because that is exactly what Putin wants to see – that division. Let’s not divide, let’s come together.

“I hope to send a very clear message to Mr Putin that he cannot use energy as a weapon in this way.”

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One nurse, Sara, told LBC after the remarks that she “wasn’t going to strike” until Mr Zahawi’s made remarks trying to “guilt trip” NHS workers out of striking.

She said: “I am absolutely incensed. I have worked as a nurse for 38 years. I was not going to strike, I’ve been in turmoil about it.”

Sara added: “Listening to Zahawi confirmed to me that I will be out on the strike line.

“What they are trying to do by blaming it on the war is cover up for their years and years of total incompetence.”

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Another caller, Pete, told LBC that Mr Zahawai was “disgraceful” and should “resign” for saying nurse strikes are playing into President Putin’s hands.

Up to 100,000 nurses plan to walk out on December 15 and 20 if the Government refuses to revisit its three percent pay rise at a time when inflation is running at 11 percent.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is demanding an above-inflation pay rise of 19 percent for its workers.

Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, said using Russia’s war in Ukraine as a justification for a real-terms pay cut for nurses was “a new low for this Government”.

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Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Office spokesman, claimed it was “ludicrous and insulting to suggest Vladimir Putin is responsible for nurses going on strike”.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, added: “Nadhim Zahawi’s allegation that Britain’s nurses, ambulance drivers, and teachers are allies of Vladimir Putin is as ridiculous as it is disgraceful.”

Also in his interviews, Mr Zahawi confirmed that the Government has contingency plans in place to reduce the disruption across the public sector.

He said that the military would be on standby to drive ambulances.

Earlier today, the RMT union rejected an offer from the group representing train companies that sought to stop strikes in the run-up to Christmas.

The latest round of strikes by RMT members at Network Rail and 14 train companies is due to begin in nine days.

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