The Royal College of Nursing could be set to accept a pay deal of 10%, according to the union’s boss Pat Cullen.
The RCN began the biggest strike in its history last month, with thousands of nurses walking out on 15 and 20 December.
The union had originally sought a pay rise of 5% above RPI inflation, which would mean an increase of 19%.
But in an interview for The Times podcast Past Imperfect, Cullen said the RCN could be willing to meet the government halfway.
She said: “There is a rhetoric out there that says the Royal College of Nursing is unrealistic, it’s looking for something that’s totally unachievable, it’s looking for 19%.
“Now, I could sit here all day and tell you nurses’ pay has dropped by 20% over the last decade. Do I believe those nurses are entitled? Absolutely, I believe they’re entitled to 19%.
RCN pay deal
“But we also understand the economic climate that we’re working in. And what I would say to [health secretary] Steve Barclay and to the prime minister is get into a room and meet me halfway here and do the decent thing for these nurses.”
The RCN has said its members will strike again in England on 18 and 19 January unless the government is willing to negotiate.
Last year, the government confirmed a pay rise of 4.3% or £1,400 a year for staff in England and Wales. Two unions in Scotland have accepted an improved pay offer of an average 7.5%.
Yesterday (5 January) the government “reached out” to unions in a bid “to balance fair pay awards for public sector workers with what the taxpayer can afford”. A number of union leaders have warned that strikes could continue well into 2023 if negotiations are not successful.
The government also confirmed yesterday that it would introduce a raft of new anti-strike laws that would mandate minimum levels of service and could allow employers to dismiss staff who refuse to work.