Ambulance strike called off in Scotland after union members accept pay deal
Strikes by ambulance staff and some NHS workers have been called off after members of two unions voted to accept the Scottish Government’s most recent pay deal.
After initially pausing planned action to take the “best and final” pay offer to members, 64% of Unite members who voted were in favour of the deal.
Members of Unison also voted to cancel action, with 57% backing the deal on a turnout of 62%.
Following negotiations with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (pictured) and the intervention of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the new deal would mean NHS workers in Scotland would remain the best paid in the UK, and workers would get pay rises ranging from £2,205 to £2,751.
For the lowest paid it would be a rise of 11.3%, with an average rise of 7.5%.
But despite Unite and Unison’s votes for the deal, other walkouts are still being threatened, including from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Royal College of Physiotherapists (RCP) which are still to decide on the offer.
Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, said the offer was as a result of “the resolve of our members”, adding: “They were prepared to take the difficult step in taking industrial action but only because they had no other option left.
“Unite makes no apologies for fighting for better jobs, pay and conditions in the health service because NHS Scotland workers should be fairly rewarded for the outstanding work that they do day in and day out.”
While the union’s lead negotiator for NHS Scotland, James O’Connell, said: “We believe that the improved offer was the best that could be negotiated under the present circumstances.
“It was ultimately up to our NHS membership to consider whether the offer was acceptable which they have now judged it to be by 64%.”
The threat of strike action, however, “should be a warning to the Scottish Government”, Mr O’Connell added.
“No longer can they take NHS workers for granted and platitudes are not sufficient,” he said.
“Words need to be backed up by action and the threat of industrial action didn’t need to be on the cards if the workers were made a fair offer in the summer.
Unison’s health committee chair Wilma Brown said her union’s vote was “not a win for the Government – it is a warning”.
“It was far from a unanimous decision and many of the NHS professional grades feel badly let down,” she said.
“Almost half of Unison NHS staff voted to reject this latest pay offer, and many who did vote to accept, did so reluctantly.
“There is a staffing crisis in the NHS. The health service is consistently understaffed and under-resourced and every day staff are expected to deliver more with less.
“We have the highest job vacancy rates, the longest waiting lists and longest waiting times since records began.
“The Cabinet Secretary has secured himself a pause in our members’ anger. He now needs to use the next pay round to resolve the under staffing, low staff morale, and pay.”
The RCN ballot will close on December 19, but it is not clear when a result will be announced.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “I welcome UNISON and Unite members accepting this record pay offer. We have engaged tirelessly with trade union representatives over recent weeks, leaving no stone unturned to reach an offer which responds to the key concerns of staff across the service.
“This offer of over half a billion pounds underlines our commitment to supporting our fantastic NHS staff. A newly qualified nurse would see a pay rise of 8.7%, and experienced nurses and would get uplifts of between £2,450 and £2,751.
“We are making this offer at a time of extraordinary financial challenges to the Scottish Government to get money into the pockets of hard working staff and to avoid industrial action, in what is already going to be an incredibly challenging winter.
“Constructive engagement is crucial, and I would urge the UK Government to get back to the negotiating table with the unions as we have done in Scotland.”
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