Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) in Scotland have overwhelmingly rejected the latest pay deal for NHS workers in a move that could pave the way for strikes.
The College said that 82% of members who voted rejected an offer of an average 7.5% uplift from the Scottish Government that was made after negotiations with NHS unions.
Dates for industrial action would be announced early next year, the RCN said.
'Years of Being Undervalued'
Julie Lamberth, RCN Scotland board chair, said: "It was the right thing to ask our members whether to accept or reject this offer. It directly affects their lives and each eligible member needed to be given the chance to have their say. And the result could not be clearer – we have forcefully rejected what the Scottish Government said is its ‘best and final’ offer.”
Ms Lamberth said that nurses did not want to strike, but that "years of being undervalued and understaffed have left us feeling we have no alternative because enough is enough”. She added: "The ball is in Scottish Government’s court if strike action is going to be avoided."
Ministers at Holyrood had insisted that their pay offer to NHS Agenda for Change workers, was "the best in the UK" and would ensure that frontline health workers would receive pay rises ranging from £2205 to £2751. While the average pay rise on offer was 7.5%, those in the lowest pay bracket would see an increase of 11.3%, they said.
The Scottish Government said the offer was worth an additional £515 million in 2022-23, and would also be backed by measures to promote staff and patient safety and support long-term workforce sustainability.
Pay Talks to Continue
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) announced that 65% of its members in Scotland had rejected the pay offer. RCM members in Scotland have already voted for industrial action in the absence of an acceptable pay award.
Jaki Lambert, RCM director for Scotland, said: "Our members have spoken loud and clear – the latest pay offer by the Scottish Government is simply not good enough. It goes nowhere near addressing the rising cost of living and would see many midwives actually worse off in real terms.
"Our maternity services are continuing to face staffing challenges. In many places it’s only the goodwill and commitment of midwives and their colleagues that keep these services going."
Humza Yousaf, cabinet secretary for health and social care, tweeted that he was "disappointed" that both the RCN and RCM had rejected the pay deal. He said that meaningful dialogue had helped avoid strike action so far and he would "continue engagement" through a meeting with health unions on Thursday. "We'll leave no stone unturned to ensure we avoid strikes this winter," Mr Yousaf said.