Steve Barclay leaves Downing Street after a meeting of the cabinet.
Steve Barclay has rejected calls to make NHS staff a better pay offer in a bid to avert a series of crippling strikes.
Thousands of nurses, ambulance workers and other health service employees are due to walk out before Christmas in a long-running dispute over pay.
The government have so far offered a rise of around 4.75%, well short of what has been demanded by trade unions.
In Scotland, however, the prospect of strikes has been averted after ministers there tabled an offer of 7.5%.
On Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, Barclay was asked whether he was “willing to improve your pay offer”.
He replied: “No, we have an independent pay review body that looks at that. That is the position that we have in terms of pay.”
Pressed again on whether the government could increase the pay offer it has made, the minister said: “What I’m saying is we have an independent process that looks at these issues in the round. What we have done through the autumn statement is prioritise the NHS - an extra £6.6 billion over the next two years.”
Barclay insisted is “door is open” to more negotiations with the unions, but insisted it would cost the public purse an extra £28 billion to give every public sector worker an inflation-level pay rise.
He added: “We are prioritising getting the balance in terms of pay, looking at all the other things we can do for staff because staff tell me it’s not simply an issue of pay.”
The GMB, Unison and Unite trade unions, who are co-ordinating industrial action across England and Wales, confirmed yesterday that ambulance workers will walk out on December 21 in a dispute over pay.
The announcement came a day after the RMT union confirmed that its members will walk out on Christmas Eve in their own ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.