Health workers in Wales balloted on improved pay offer aimed at resolving dispute

Health workers in Wales are being balloted on an improved offer from the Welsh government aimed at resolving the long-running dispute over pay.

Unite is not recommending acceptance of the proposed deal but said strike action will be paused while voting is held over the next month.

The union said the pay offer falls short of inflation and does not address the concerns of its members over the cost of living, but it described it as a “significant improvement” on what was previously proposed by the Welsh Government.

Unison’s head of bargaining and campaigns in Wales, Jess Turner, said: “It has taken months of talks in Wales to achieve this new improved pay offer for staff. We know they deserve more but this offer is a significant step forward and the best that could be achieved through negotiation.

“Earlier this year, Unison ambulance workers in Wales secured a mandate for strike action as morale hit an all-time low. However, this offer is a significant improvement from where we started in January.

“The offer also contains additional commitments to reductions in the qualifying period for unsocial hours and enhancements on sick pay.

“That’s why Unison is now recommending voters to accept the offer. This will avoid workers losing pay during strikes, further delays in the NHS and will mean extra money in their pay checks. If health workers reject, there’s a risk the offer could be withdrawn.”

Eluned Morgan, minister for health and social services in the Welsh government said most unions will be recommending accepting the offer of pay rises for 2022/23 and 2023/24.

For 2022-23, a collective agreement was reached earlier this year and which provided 3% (1.5% as a non-consolidated cash payment and 1.5% consolidated into pay and backdated to April 2022) on top of the average 4.7% increase already made following the Pay Review Body recommendations.

The additional now being offered for 2022-23 is a one-off NHS Recovery Payment of an average 3% non-consolidated payment.

For 2023-24 the offer is for a consolidated across-the-board increase of 5% with effect from 1 April 2023 to Agenda for Change pay scales.

If the offer is accepted this means that Welsh NHS staff will have received an average an award of over 15.7% (of which 11.2% is consolidated into pay permanently) over two years 2022-23 and 2023-24, said the Welsh government.

Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing said it will “strongly resist” any legal challenge to its planned 48-hour strike in England from April 30.

RCN members working in the NHS in England at workplaces with a strike mandate are preparing to take strike action from 8pm or the start of the night shift on 30 April to 8pm or the start of the night shift on 2 May.

NHS employers have written to the RCN saying it believes its mandate for industrial action ends at midnight on May 1.

The RCN has already announced it will reballot its members to seek a renewed mandate for industrial action.

Jo Galbraith-Marten, RCN director of legal services and member relations, said: “It is regrettable NHS Employers have chosen to make this eleventh hour challenge and if this matter does progress to court we will have to defend it robustly.

“In the meantime, our plans remain, and we will continue to work with employers to find a way forward. If a court determines the action on Tuesday 2 May 2023 is not covered by the mandate of our ballot, we will advise members accordingly.”

Daniel Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers said: “The RCN ballot for industrial action ended at midday on November 2, 2022 and allows the union six months to undertake any action approved by that ballot.

“NHS Employers has written to the RCN stating our view – on behalf of trusts in England, and with clear legal advice – that the RCN’s mandate for industrial action ends at midnight on Monday May 1.

“We have therefore asked the RCN to amend its guidance to its members regarding any action planned for Tuesday May 2. We are in ongoing exchanges with the RCN on this matter.”

Julie Richards, of the Royal College of Midwives in Wales, which is recommending acceptance, said: “This is without a doubt the best deal that can be achieved. It is a significant step forward from the earlier offer and a good one for 2023/24.

“Our members have made this great achievement possible. It is their willingness and determination to take a stand and take action for better care for women, better working conditions, and fairer pay that has brought this about.

“It is important that our members now look at this offer and vote in our upcoming consultation to have their say.”

Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “NHS leaders will welcome the news of a further enhanced pay offer from the Welsh Government to Agenda for Change staff in Wales.

“Most importantly, we acknowledge the efforts by the Welsh Government and trade unions to maintain an open dialogue, pause strike action and work in social partnership to find a resolution to the dispute.

“There’s no doubt this package has been negotiated against a backdrop of intense system pressures but also at an extremely challenging time for public finances.

“Above all else, we hope this can bring an end to the disruption for staff, services and patients so the NHS can continue to provide care to the people of Wales.”

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