NHS staff who are members of the union Unite have started voting today on whether or not to accept the three-year pay deal that was unveiled in March.
Unite’s national health committee, which represents the union’s 100,000 members in the NHS, has recommended acceptance of the deal. The ballot closes on Tuesday 5 June.
“We are urging our members to turn out to vote in big numbers to accept the package”
The Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association and the Mental Health Nurses Association are both part of Unite.
The 14 unions that make up the NHS Staff Council have all backed the proposals, with the exception of the GMB, which is encouraging its members to reject the deal. Ballots on the pay proposals are already underway for members of both Unison and the Royal College of Nursing.
The deal, 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.
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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.
In addition, suggestions of much bigger rises for some 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.
The negotiations, which concluded in March, came after the chancellor Philip Hammond and health and social care secretary Jeremy Hunt scrapped the 1% cap on public sector pay rises.
However, following a government leak, the RCN and other unions were forced to resist changes to annual leave entitlements and the special payments made to staff who work unsocial hours.
The Treasury has committed to fully fund the deal with £4.2bn for the NHS. As a result, Unite noted that trusts and other NHS employers will not be asked to find the funds from existing resources.
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Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “We are urging our members to turn out to vote in big numbers to accept the package that was hammered out after some tough negotiations.
“We regard this as the start, not the end, of the journey for true pay justice for NHS staff, which we will continue to campaign for with energy in the coming months and years,” said Ms Carpenter.
She said: “After eight years of pay austerity, this package is a significant recognition that the harsh pay regime imposed on hard working and dedicated NHS staff could no longer be sustained.”
“We hope that this package heralds a new realistic pay dawn for NHS staff”
She said that Unite “especially” welcomed the boost for the lowest paid in the NHS under the deal, which would see band 1 scrapped and increased starting rates for all new NHS joiners at all grades.
“We hope that this package heralds a new realistic pay dawn for NHS staff and goes some way to meet the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the health service,” said Ms Carpenter.
“We also hope that it will act as a shot in the arm for staff morale,” she said. “They never flinch in their duty to the sick, the vulnerable and the injured 24/7, 365 days-a-year.”
She added: “Unite’s national health committee discussed the deal and agreed to put it out for the members to decide, with the recommendation to accept.”