Health unions representing the majority of NHS workers have recommended that the revised pay offer made by the Government should be implemented.
NHS employers sat down today with unions for an extraordinary meeting which was expected to pave the way for the Government to implement a pay rise aimed at resolving the long-running dispute for some nurses and other healthcare workers. Among the representatives on the staff side will be the six health unions that currently have strike mandates in England: the RCN, Unison, the Royal College of Midwives, the GMB, Unite and the Charted Society of Physiotherapy.
In a joint statement, members of the NHS Staff Council said that the unions agreed to the deal for staff on the Agenda for Change contract, which includes all NHS workers apart from doctors, dentists, and senior managers.
The NHS Staff Council heard reports from 14 unions, which have balloted hundreds of thousands of health workers in recent weeks. The Health Department then voted on whether the offer should be accepted. As expected the vote was in favour, paving the way for the Government to implement the pay rise to all health workers covered by the agreement, including members of the RCN and Unite.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay told journalists on Monday he was "cautiously optimistic" that the Staff Council would agree to vote in favour of the deal.
Unison, GMB, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Royal College of Midwives were among those who voted to accept the offer while Royal College of Nursing and Unite voted against it. The ballot results were reported at a NHS Staff Council meeting where unions reported the results of their individual ballots then voted on whether the Government should implement the offer.
This paves way for the Department of Health and Social Care to impose the 5% pay rise for this year and a cash sum for last year.
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite rejected the offer of a 5% pay rise for this year and a cash sum for last year, leading both unions to hold strikes on Monday. But other unions – including Unison, the GMB and those representing midwives and physiotherapists – voted in favour of the deal.
Mr Barclay also told journalists that he thought the nurses' current strike plans were "premature".
"I think the RCN should have waited. They’re a member of the Staff Council. They were part of the negotiations," he said.
RCN Planning to Ballot Members Again
The RCN is pressing ahead with a fresh ballot to see if its members want to continue taking industrial action irrespective of what happens at today’s meeting. RCN members will return to work on Tuesday after their latest strike in England in protest at the pay offer.
RCN general secretary Pat Cullen joined a picket line in London on Monday, saying: "What our members are saying to the Secretary of State and Government is we are not going to go away.
"We will continue to lose a day’s pay standing on picket lines for our patients so that’s how important it is to them and they want to have their voice heard," she said.
"Pay those people a decent wage, the offer that was put on the table didn't address the issues with nursing and it didn’t address the issues within the health service and that's fundamentally what needs to happen right away."
She claimed Health Secretary Steve Barclay has "lost the public and certainly lost any respect that our nursing staff had for him and this Government".
The RCN's latest strike was due to last until 8 pm on 2 May, but it has been forced to shorten its industrial action after the high court in London ruled its legal mandate for strikes expired on 1 May.
Unite members at South Central, South East Coast and West Midlands ambulance trusts alongside workers at Christies NHS Foundation Trust, Christies Pathology Partnership, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust will all take part in industrial action on Tuesday.
Unite national officer Onay Kasab said: "We had been clear with ministers from the outset that the offer of a real terms pay cut sweetened with a one-off cash payment was very likely to be rejected by our members and it has.
"It does not go far enough to address the massive problems facing the NHS due to overworked and underpaid workers leaving in droves. Our members will be on the picket lines with Unite's total support until ministers come back with an acceptable offer."
Meanwhile, staff at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will strike today in another long-running dispute over pay.