Nurses are to stage fresh strikes after rejecting the Government’s offer aimed at resolving the bitter NHS pay dispute. At the same time, healthcare workers represented by Unison have voted to accept the pay offer. This includes ambulance workers, some nurses not represented by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), and other NHS staff.
The Royal College of Nursing announced that its members will walk out for 48 hours from 8pm on April 30, without any derogations. The move followed a 54% vote to reject an offer of a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year. The turnout among RCN members employed on NHS Agenda for Change contracts in England was 61%.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen has written to Health Secretary Steve Barclay to inform him of fresh strike action before the end of the month, and seek urgent re-opening of talks with the Government. The RCN said the new strike will also involve nursing staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care, and other services that were previously exempt.
The RCN will now conduct a new England-wide statutory ballot to extend the scope and duration of the current mandate for industrial action.
Offer 'Simply Not Enough' RCN Wrote to Health Secretary
The letter to Mr Barclay said: "What has been offered to date is simply not enough. The Government needs to increase what has already been offered and we will be highly critical of any move to reduce it.
"Since our talks in February, we have seen the pressures on the NHS continue to increase.
"The crisis in our health and care services cannot be addressed without significant action that addresses urgent recruitment and retention issues and nursing pay to bring this dispute to a close urgently.
"Until there is a significantly improved offer, we are forced back to the picket line.
"Meetings alone are not sufficient to prevent strike action and I will require an improved offer as soon as possible. In February, you opened negotiations directly with me and I urge you to do the same now.
"After a historic vote to strike, our members expect a historic pay award."
Unite and the GMB will announce the result of their ballots on the same deal in 2 weeks’ time.
Unison Members Vote to Accept Government's Pay Offer
The union announced that 74% of those who voted backed the deal of a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year. The turnout was 52% among Unison’s 288,000 members in England.
Unison had recommended acceptance of the offer, which followed talks involving unions, employers, and ministers. The offer covers 2 pay years – an additional one-off amount for 2022/23 and a 5% wage rise for 2023/24.
Unison's head of health Sara Gorton said: "Clearly health workers would have wanted more, but this was the best that could be achieved through negotiation.
"Over the past few weeks, health workers have weighed up what’s on offer. They've opted for the certainty of getting the extra cash in their pockets soon," she said.
"It's a pity it took several months of strike action before the Government would commit to talks. Unions told ministers last summer the £1,400 pay rise wasn’t enough to stop staff leaving the NHS, nor to prevent strikes, but they didn’t want to listen.
"Instead, health workers were forced to strike, losing money they could ill afford. The NHS and its patients suffered months of unnecessary disruption.
"Other unions are still consulting so the full picture won’t emerge until the end of the month. Unison will be urging the Government to ensure NHS workers get the wage rises they’ve voted for at the earliest opportunity.
"This vote might end Unison’s dispute, but it doesn’t solve the wider staffing emergency affecting every part of the NHS.
"Now, the Government must work with unions to bring about a sustained programme of investment in the workforce.
"Lessons must also be learned. The mistakes of the past few months cannot be repeated. It’s time for a whole new approach to setting pay across the NHS."
A Government spokesperson said: "The decision by members of Unison, the largest NHS union, to accept the pay offer recommended by their leadership demonstrates that it is a fair and reasonable proposal that can bring this dispute to an end.
"Under the offer, an Agenda for Change employee at the Band 6 entry point – such as a physiotherapist, paramedic or a midwife – will receive over £5,100 across last year and this year, with over £2,000 in bonus payments arriving as a lump sum in pay cheques by summer.
"Hundreds of thousands of Agenda for Change staff continue to vote in ballots for other unions over the next 2 weeks and we hope this generous offer secures their support."
This article contains information from PA Media