Health Workers Accept Revised Pay Offer

Hundreds of thousands of health workers have “grudgingly” voted to accept an improved pay offer, bringing some relief to the government as it faces up to the threat of strikes elsewhere in the public sector, it was announced today.

Unison, which represents 450,000 NHS staff across the UK, said its members accepted the deal by around 2-1.

The government angered health unions by deciding to stage a recommended 2.5% rise, reducing the value of the award to 1.9%.

But ministers improved the deal in August by offering a £400 flat rate rise for tens of thousands of the lowest paid NHS workers as well as money towards registration fees.

Karen Jennings, the head of health at Unison, said the pay deal was still below the rate of inflation, which was “disappointing”, but she said workers wanted to move on after waiting months for their pay rise.

“The increase still represents a cut in living standards so we will try to catch up next year.

“I don’t believe health workers will accept a below inflation pay increase for two years running.

“The latest statistics show that pay growth in the public sector has fallen to its lowest for a decade. The NHS will need to work hard to keep its staff from looking for higher paid work elsewhere.”

Talks will start soon on terms and conditions of NHS staff and Ms Jennings said Unison will press for a cut in the working week and better training. Ms Jennings said the deal had been accepted grudgingly, adding: “It’s a bitter pill.”

The new deal is worth 3.4% for the lowest paid but 2.08% overall and represents a £52m increase on the original offer.

The GMB, which has about 9,000 members in the NHS, also announced acceptance of the deal today.

National officer Sharon Holder said: “The offer represents a significant step forward for the lowest paid workers so we are delighted it has been accepted.”

The health secretary, Alan Johnson, welcomed the union ballot results, adding: “What is important is that we build on this, involving the workforce in the key decisions about the future of the NHS as we modernise patient care. Involving staff in this way is the key to boosting morale.”

The Royal College of Nursing will meet on Saturday to decide whether to accept the offer or move towards a ballot for industrial action among its 200,000 members in England.

The government is still facing the threat of strikes by civil servants and council workers, while postal staff will walk out again by the end of the month if their dispute over pay and jobs is not resolved.