NHS staff in England, including nurses and ambulance workers, could end months of ongoing strike action by accepting a fresh pay offer backed by unions. But the British Medical Association (BMA) is yet to start talks on behalf of doctors after rejecting formal pay talks with the government last Friday.
The Royal College of Nursing, the GMB and Unison are backing a new pay offer which surfaced after lengthy talks between health unions and the government on Thursday. If the offer is accepted, staff will get a one-off payment for 2022-23 that rises in value up the NHS pay bands as well as a 5% rise on all contracted salaries for 2023-24.
Now, 14 unions will ballot their members on the new proposal but could take weeks for an official result to be declared. Rachel Harrison, GMB national secretary, said that the union’s members “should rightly be proud of themselves”.
“It’s been a tough road but they have faced down the Department of Health and won an offer that we feel is the best that can be achieved at this stage through negotiation.” Royal College of Nursing (RCN) general secretary Pat Cullen said: “The Government was forced into these negotiations and to reopen the pay award as a result of the historic pressure from nursing staff.
“Members took the hardest of decisions to go on strike and I believe they have been vindicated today.”
However, Unite the Union has been critical of the pay offer as a structural resolution. “That is not going to do anything to help new people come into the NHS. It’s not going to deal with the recruitment crisis,” said Onay Kasab, the National officer for Unite.
Junior doctors strike
While progress is being made for some healthcare workers, others are still in the midst of strike action. Earlier this week, junior doctors in England took part in a three-day walkout.
Despite the scale of the industrial action, BMA rejected a last-minute offer of formal pay talks to call it off. The union - which is calling for a 35% pay rise - said the government is only willing to propose an offer that would consolidate the next financial year.
Health Secretary Steve Barclay has insisted a 35% pay rise is “not affordable”. He said: “We have offered the same terms to the junior doctors that were accepted by the other trade unions and that is what I hope the junior doctors will respond to.”
With Thursday’s breakthrough fresh in the minds of junior doctors, all eyes will be on how the BMA and the government can resolve this dispute moving forward.