Unison has launched a consultation on the NHS pay proposals during its annual health conference in Brighton, with members in England given until 5 June to air their views.
The union’s health members, including nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, will now have the opportunity to decide whether to accept the multi-year pay deal which comes with an extra £4.2bn worth of funding.
“The consultation has launched today and runs until 5 June – we want everyone to take part”
The proposals, revealed by negotiators on 21 March, would mean at least a 6.5% increase for most staff over three years, plus incremental hikes for some, if subsequently accepted by unions.
Benefits in the deal highlighted by Unison include substantial increases to starting salaries, significant pay rises on promotion and faster progression through most pay bands.
- NHS nurse pay set to rise by 6.5% over three years under new deal
- Negotiators pin recruitment and retention hopes on new pay deal
- Exclusive: Pay proposals are ‘best possible deal’, says RCN negotiator
But there has been disquiet in some areas that the pay rise is not high enough, given the recent years of pay freezes and then the 1% pay rise cap, and the likely level of inflation.
Some of the suggestions of much bigger rises for some – as high as 29% – have also been criticised as misleading, with critics saying extra money gained via band restructuring should be viewed as separate to the basic pay increase.
Roz Norman, chair of Unison’s health service group executive, said: “The consultation has launched today and runs until 5 June – we want everyone to take part.
“And if the proposals are accepted, the extra funding for English health budgets will go through the Barnett formula into budgets in Scotland, Cymru/Wales and Northern Ireland,” she noted.
“We can then enter talks in each country about whether and how to implement the agreement in a way that would work for them,” Ms Norman told conference delegates with regards to members in UK countries other than England.
“The question for NHS staff is whether there’s enough in the whole package to offer something better than the alternative”
Unison, which led the talks for the union side, said it believed it was a better deal than would be achieved through the NHS pay review body process, and recommended that members accept it.
It said it was now writing to all its health members, asking them to find out more about the proposals and, when they were ready, cast their vote.
In addition, Unison head of health Sara Gorton said she had written to health activists, urging them to help their members in that process.
“I appreciate that this is a complex set of proposals for members to get their heads around, which makes the work of activists so important,” she said.
“The health team will work with them and their regions to ensure that as many members as possible understand these proposals, find out what it means for them, and use their vote to have their say on pay,” she said.
If the proposals are accepted, members will have additional money in their pockets from July, according to Unison.
If they were rejected, it warned that the Treasury was likely to take the £4.2bn off the table – leaving the NHS pay review body and the government to then recommend and implement a pay award.
The union said its members could then be faced with a difficult choice about whether to take industrial action to improve it.
Ms Gorton said: “In an ideal world, the 12-14% knocked off the real value of NHS pay over the last decade would have been restored for all.
“But the proposal on offer is a negotiated settlement, so was always going to contain a mixture of what Unison wanted combined with the demands of employers, government and other unions,” she said.
Healthcare assistants used as ‘nurses on the cheap’
“The question for NHS staff is whether there’s enough in the whole package to offer something better than the alternative, which would mean relying on the pay review body to deliver a better award than what’s on offer, and for the government to fund it,” she said.
“Getting the funding for these proposals doesn’t mean that we’re going to let ministers off the hook for their record on the NHS,” she added.
Ms Gorton highlighted that unions “strive” to achieve the best deal for their members and had “worked hard to break the hated pay cap”.
“Our aim is to make the whole pay system fairer and the NHS a more attractive place to work for prospective staff,” she said. “This would help ease the pressure on existing employees struggling to cope with increased demand.”
The Unison pay ballot closes at 5pm on Tuesday 5 June 2018. Delegates at the conference in Brighton debated the pay proposals earlier today.