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Majority of nursing union members vote to accept NHS pay deal


Members of the major NHS unions, including the Royal College of Nursing, Unison, Unite and the Royal College of Midwives, have all voted to accept the health service pay deal currently on offer in England.

The results of the various consultation exercises and ballots carried out by the unions involved in negotiations with the government side were revealed today, with the exception of the GMB.

“We have taken a significant step on the journey towards fairer pay for NHS staff”

Josie Irwin

The RCN said 77% of its members backed the pay offer, while 84% of Unison members voted in support, as did 79% of Unite members and 85.7% of RCM members.

The deal was also accepted by other smaller unions representing occupational therapists, dietitians, physiotherapists, radiographers foot care experts, clinical scientists and managers.

Members of the GMB were the only group to vote to reject the offer. The union, which represents many ambulance workers, said 87% of its NHS members had rejected the deal in a recent poll.

It was the only union to encourage its members to reject the deal and said it would convene a meeting of representatives on 15 June to consider its “next steps”.

“Most importantly the extra funding means the pay rise won’t be at the expense of services or patient care”

Sara Gorton

Leaders from the other unions stated that health workers had voted “overwhelmingly” to accept the deal. As a result, NHS staff should now get the money in their July pay packets, backdated from April.

The NHS pay review body, usually asked by the government to consider levels of public sector pay, will now be expected to make a recommendation in favour of the deal to ministers later this month.

The proposals are then expected to receive final approval at a meeting of unions, the NHS and government on 27 June. After which a formal communication will be sent to NHS employers.

The deal was negotiated by 14 NHS unions, the government and the body NHS Employers, which represents trusts. The three-year offer, which was unveiled on 21 March, includes a 6.5% pay rise for almost all nurses and other NHS staff on Agenda for Change contracts.

Under the deal, all but the very highest paid staff would get 3% in April 2018, 1.7% and a 1.1% lump sum in April 2019, and 1.7% from April 2020.

But the negotiations also included potential contract reforms that mean it will take less time to move through increments within a pay band and the removal of band 1 altogether.

As a result, negotiators said the proposals could result in some staff receiving more than the 6.5% basic pay, with controversial suggestions of to a 29% rise over the period for some.

At the very least, unions said every NHS worker in England will now be paid at least £8.93 an hour – 18p above the real living wage of £8.75 – or £17,460 if they work full-time.

sara gorton for index

sara gorton for index

Sara Gorton

The Treasury has committed to fully fund the deal with £4.2bn extra for the NHS, meaning hospital trusts and other employers will not be asked to find the funds from existing resources.

Sara Gorton, lead health union negotiator and Unison head of health, said: “The agreement won’t solve all the NHS’ problems overnight, but it will go a long way towards easing the financial strain suffered by health staff and their families over many years.

“The lifting of the damaging 1% cap on pay will come as a huge relief for all the employers who’ve struggled for so long to attract new recruits and hold onto experienced staff,” she said.

“But this three-year pay deal must not be a one off,” she said. “Health workers will want to know that ministers are committed to decent wage rises across the NHS for the long term, and that this isn’t just a quick fix.

“Most importantly the extra funding means the pay rise won’t be at the expense of services or patient care,” she added.

“This is the best deal in the public sector and the only one which is additionally funded”

Gill Walton

Referring to an expected announcement, Ms Gorton noted that staff would also be hoping that ministers announce an injection of cash for NHS services in time for its 70th birthday next month.

Josie Irwin, senior health union negotiator and RCN associate director for employment relations, said: “Today’s deal gives a much-needed pay rise to over a million people and, at a time when there are 40,000 unfilled nurse jobs in England alone, it should help to make the profession more attractive to current and future nurses alike.

“By standing together, the NHS unions were able to reject all unpalatable demands to cut annual leave or unsocial hours payments and get the best possible deal from a government still committed to austerity,” she said.

“We have taken a significant step on the journey towards fairer pay for NHS staff but there is much more to achieve, not least for the staff who deliver NHS services outside direct employment,” she said referring to an earlier call from the RCN to extend the deal.

She added: “The government would be mistaken if it thought today’s deal was the end, rather than the beginning, of that journey.”

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “We are pleased that our members have voted by such a large margin to accept the three year package that was hammered out after some tough negotiations.

“However, we don’t regard this result as the end of the story, but a first stage on the long march for pay justice for dedicated staff working in the NHS, after eight years of pay austerity,” she said. “And it is that goal to which we will be concentrating our energies in the months ahead.

She added: “There are still a number of issues that have to be resolved at a local level, such as ‘buying and selling annual leave for pay’; the implementation of pay progression by individual trusts; and how trusts pay and support their apprentices.”

Royal College of Midwives

New chief executive takes over at midwives’ union

Gill Walton

Gill Walton, RCM chief executive and general secretary, said: “I am pleased that our members have accepted this offer. It means that midwives, maternity support workers and other NHS staff can start to recoup the losses of the last eight years.

“That’s a real increase as inflation falls to 2.4%,” she said. “It also means an increase to starting salaries for new midwives, who let us not forget will for the first time be burdened with significant student debt.”

She added: “This is the best deal in the public sector and the only one which is additionally funded, meaning it will not come out of existing NHS money.”

It is also expected that additional funding will now be made available through the Barnett formula for health budgets in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, allowing pay negotiations to take place for health workers there.

What the deal will mean for NHS staff:

  • The agreement will see major changes to pay structures in the NHS. Band one will disappear by April 2021, when £18,005 will become the lowest full-time salary. This, combined with the cost of living increases, mean that more than 100,000 of the lowest paid health workers will get wage rises over the next three years of between 15% (£2,300) and 17% (£2,600)
  • The pay structure changes will see most staff moving to the top of their pay bands more quickly, and an end to band overlapping, where some on lower bands were earning more than their senior colleagues
  • Most health workers already at the top of their bands will get 6.5% between April 2018 and April 2020 – 3% in 2018, 1.7% and a 1.1% lump sum in April 2019, and 1.7% from April 2020

Readers' comments (5)

  • Wimps the lot of you, this is a stab in the back for nurses. Inflation is set to rise, National Insurance has already rised, your pension contribution is set to rise you are going to be worse off financially! And I’m only a student nurse but I have the intelligence to see you’ve been duped in to seeing this is a good deal, god help us in the future. Yes I understand you were fearful that the government might withdraw the deal but remember the suffragettes they didn’t bow down at the first hurdle, but you have!

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  • I am surprised how the unions and media are hailing this as a fantastic deal for all nhs staff. There is no balance in how this is reported. Some staff will be better off, but facts such as long periods of pay freezes, increases below inflation, rises in pension contributions, tax/NI changes, have been skimmed over. Media hype makes it sound like an immediate pay award of 6.5% - 29% without explanation of what this really means.
    The very quietly kept changes to pension contribution pay bands has already resulted in many staff having significant deductions taken out of salaries. Particularly for nursing staff at the top of their bands - often the most experienced and qualified, with a high degree of clinical accountability. Many will now take home less pay - even after the pay award.

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  • Really disgusted and disappointed with the unions. I am with RCN at present but leaving to join GMB. I expected the Tory government to keep shafting the NHS but was hoping the unions would put up some of a fight. I am glad the lower paid are receiving a reasonable rise, they do indeed deserve it, but many experienced nurses at the top of their grade will in fact be getting pay cuts again when inflation and other increases are taken into account. It really is a terrible deal. The union negotiators should hang their heads in shame.

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  • I agree with the above comment, the lower paid work hard and deserve a good pay rise. I can't understand why nurses with years of experienced and have sacrificed a great deal are kicked in the teeth yet again. I am a member of Unison, I used to be an RCN member but left because they tended to be on the side of the Government. I feel many unions have let us down including Unison.

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  • If our ancestors had been this cowardly, we would still be serfs tied to the land of the lord of the manor. I look at my colleagues and think Christ almighty, can't they figure it out?

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