Unions representing nurses and other NHS staff in Wales have accepted a pay deal from the Welsh Government, which will see the majority of workers receive a 1% pay increase in 2015.
An original offer for 2014-15 put forward by ministers in July did not include the blanket pay increase, despite this being recommended by the independent NHS Pay Review Body. It was rejected by unions.
However, the new deal agreed upon today covers two years and will see all staff on Agenda for Change contracts receive a 1% consolidated uplift for 2015-16.
Staff on these contracts will also receive a one-off payment of £187, an increase from the £160 originally offered in July.
This will be paid in January 2015 to all Agenda for Change employees who were in post as of 1 December 2014.
“The settlement is an improvement on the previous offer…but does not make up for the real term loss that NHS workers have suffered in recent years”
In addition, the new deal retains a pledge that all NHS workers will in future earn at least the living wage of £7.85 per hour.
However, this will now not come into force until January 2015. In the government’s original proposal, this was due to take effect from September 2014.
Meanwhile, employed staff will continue to receive incremental progression pay, the government confirmed, adding that an amendment to the deal will ensure that this uplift is always a minimum of 1%.
In October, NHS workers in Wales from Unison voted to go on strike over the Welsh Government’s refusal to offer a blanket 1% increase in salaries for all staff.
Earlier this month, the union announced it had suspended industrial action by its NHS members after ministers put forward fresh proposals on pay – details of which were not revealed at the time.
“Our overriding priority has been – and continues to be – to maintain jobs at the frontline of NHS Wales”
Health minister Mark Drakeford said today that the new two-year pay deal demonstrated the Welsh Government’s “ongoing commitment” to NHS staff during financially challenging times.
He said: “Our overriding priority has been – and continues to be – to maintain jobs at the frontline of NHS Wales against a backdrop of severe cuts to our budget.
“This [pay deal] is an excellent example of working collaboratively and co-production and I am pleased that in Wales we have been able to avoid significant strike action by agreeing a mutual position – this is a credit to all parties,” he added.
Dawn Bowden, head of health at Unison Wales, said: “The settlement is an improvement on the previous offer and we welcome achieving the living wage for our lowest paid members.
“‘This has been a difficult process for all involved, particularly given the challenging financial climate that we are in as a result of the UK government’s continued austerity programme,” she said.
However, she added: “Clearly this agreement does not make up for the real term loss that NHS workers have suffered in recent years, but we hope we can build on this settlement in the future.”
Gaynor Jones, Royal College of Nursing council member for Wales, said: “The RCN along with its trade union partners have been involved in tough negotiations to get the best pay agreement for its members. We are disappointed that staff will not receive the 1% pay increase with immediate effect that the independent pay review body recommended, however, in the best interest of our members we have decided to accept the current offer.
“We believe that the Welsh Government must protect patients by ensuring they receive safe, dignified, world class care and that begins with valuing the NHS’s most precious asset - its staff.”