UK healthcare pay offer to be implemented as strike threat remains
By Kylie MacLellan
LONDON (Reuters) -More than one million National Health Service staff in England will receive a pay rise after trade unions representing a majority of workers involved in a long-running dispute voted to accept a deal on Tuesday.
The offer, covering nurses, paramedics, midwives and other workers in England, includes a one-off payment equivalent to 2% of salaries in the 2022/23 financial year and a 5% pay rise for 2023/24.
It had been accepted by members at the largest union involved, UNISON, as well as three others, but Unite and the Royal College of Nursing rejected the offer and plan further strike action.
Health minister Steve Barclay said it was the final offer and the decision by the NHS Staff Council, which includes representatives from NHS employers and trade unions, to accept it showed a majority believed it was "fair and reasonable".
"Where some unions may choose to remain in dispute, we hope their members will recognise this as a fair outcome that carries the support of their colleagues and decide it is time to bring industrial action to an end," Barclay said.
The dispute over a demand for pay deals which better reflect an inflation rate above 10%, has led to hundreds of thousands of NHS staff taking strike action over the last few months, adding to strains on the health service.
The head of health at UNISON, Sara Gorton, said the pay rise must now be put in place as soon as possible.
"This pay deal must be the start of something new in the NHS. There cannot be a repeat of the past few months," she said.
The NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, welcomed the vote but said health leaders remained concerned about the prospect of further industrial action.
Unite said the vote would not stop its members continuing their strike action, while tens of thousands of junior doctors are still involved in a separate dispute with the government over pay.
The RCN confirmed in a letter to Barclay that it still intended to ballot its members later this month over new strike action to be held between June and December.
(Reporting by Sachin Ravikumar and Kylie MacLellan; editing by William James and Angus MacSwan)