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Balloting begins for action over ‘insulting’ NHS pay offer

Nurses and other NHS staff are being balloted from today on whether they wish to take industrial action, potentially including strikes, over the government’s handling of this year’s pay awards.

Ballot papers for health service members of the union Unite will start landing on doormats in England, Wales and Northern Ireland from today, the union said in a statement.

They are being asked two questions – whether they wish to take strike action, or whether they wish to take industrial action short of a strike. The Unite ballot closes on 26 September.

“We are confident of a positive result from our members”

Rachael Maskell

Unison, the GMB and the Royal College of Midwives are also due to start similar ballots over the coming days and weeks as part of joint effort by unions to make a stand on pay.

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said she was “confident” that her members would vote in favour of action.

“Never have our members expressed such anger as they have on the pay issue,” she said.

Unite

Rachael Maskell

“Our members have an opportunity from today to vote in favour of industrial action and send a stark message that the health secretary should sit down with the unions and listen to our proposals for fair pay for the biggest workforce in the UK,” she added.

Ms Maskell noted that any industrial action would be “carefully calibrated” to balance the anger of staff over pay with concern for patient care.

The ballots come in response to the government in England’s decision to reject the NHS Pay Review Body’s recommendation to increase the pay of all staff in Agenda for Change by 1%.

Ministers have offered a two-year deal in which staff at the top of their pay band will receive 1%, but those due incremental pay awards get not further rise.   

The Welsh government has said it too would not be following the Pay Review Body’s recommendations. Instead, all staff on Agenda for Change will get a one-off payment of £160 and those not at the top of pay bands will get an incremental pay rise.

The Scottish government is the only UK government so far to accept the recommendations of the independent NHS Pay Review Body to award all staff a 1% consolidated increase.

The Northern Ireland government has yet to announce its arrangements.

The Royal College of Nursing currently has no plans for a ballot.

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