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Unison members vote to accept NHS pay offer

One of the largest unions involved in the NHS pay strikes has voted to accept the government pay offer.

Unison has announced that 67% of its members have voted in favour of accepting the offer, joining the Royal College of Midwives, the Society of Radiographers and GMB, who have all previously announced ballot results that were in favour of the offer.

Leaders of Unison said that although they have accepted the offer it does not go far enough. This sentiment was shared by the 32% of its members who voted to reject the proposals and take further action. However the union admitted that the pay offer would make a difference to over 250,000 of the lowest paid NHS staff.

Unison head of health, Christina McAnea, said: “Our members have voted to accept this offer. Although it does not go far enough, it is an improvement and it will make a difference particularly to over 250,000 of the lowest-paid in the NHS.

“By ignoring the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body for England, the government forced health workers to take strike action over pay for the first time in 34 years. 

“I’m proud of the fact our members were prepared to take strike action without compromising patient care. Their industrial action has forced the government to negotiate with us and sent a warning that NHS workers will not sit back and do nothing when their standard of living is attacked.  

“We are calling on any government elected in May to develop a pay strategy that rewards health workers fairly for the demanding jobs they do, and ensures the NHS can continue to recruit and retain a high quality workforce.”

Unions were taking the action over the government’s decision to reject a 1% pay rise for NHS staff, which was recommended by the independent Pay Review Body last year. 

Instead, the government decided to institute a below-inflation 1% non-consolidated pay rise, which the 600,000 staff who receive progression pay increases over 1% would not receive. 

This came after the Pay Review Body said that a non-consolidated pay award could have an “adverse impact on staff engagement and motivation” and recommended against it. 

The new offer includes a consolidated 1% payment for all staff up to Band 8B (£45,707 to £56,504); an additional £200 consolidated payment for lower paid staff (pay points 3-8); and the first point on the pay scale (£14,294) to be abolished and the second raised to £15,100. 

The plans will not cost taxpayers more than the £280m originally planned, because staff earning more than £40,558 will not receive an increment rise in April this year. 

Responding to the ballot results, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers organisation, said: “It is now very likely these difficult months of NHS industrial action are over. This will be a huge relief for many patients, staff and health services.

“This is a clear signal that the NHS is entering a new phase where all parties must work together in partnership to ensure that the national pay system is sustainable for the future. Any solution will need to support better, safer and more responsive services to patients and more efficient use of NHS resources.”

In October it is estimated about 400,000 staff and six unions took part in the first round of strikes. Military personnel had to be drafted in to drive ambulances in London, in the West Midlands ambulances were only responding to life-threatening calls, while in hospitals clinics had to be postponed, antenatal classes were cancelled and operations had to be called off due to a lack of staff.

Nine unions took part in the second round of action in November causing further disruption. Two more rounds of escalating action were planned for January and February leading to Jeremy Hunt calling in unions for talks.

After two days of negotiations Hunt chaired a meeting of the government Cobra committee to plan contingencies for the strike action, an indication the talks were not going well. But the government and unions were able to reach a tentative agreement before any further action was taken.

Members of the Royal College of Midwives showed the strongest support for the deal with 93.9% voting in favour of accepting the offer; the Society of Radiographers had 86.45% vote in favour while GMB saw 81% vote to accept.

The Royal College of Nurses, which did not take part in the strike action but was consulted on the offer, is yet to take a decision. Further meetings between the unions are expected before a final decision is taken.

(Image source: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

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