NHS trade unions have suspended a 12 hour strike on Thursday, after the government appeared to give in to union demands offering a 1% pay rise to NHS staff.
Unions, including Unison, Unite, the Royal College of Midwives and the GMB, will now consult members over the offer, which follows several meetings with Department of Health officials and health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
The offer is for a consolidated, or pensionable, 1% pay rise for all staff up to band 8B on the Agenda for Change pay framework with an additional £200 consolidated payment for lower paid staff on pay points 3-8.
In a letter of offer to NHS trade unions, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the pay offer would apply to 1.1m staff under Agenda for Change.
The Department of Health said it had also negotiated that staff earning more than £40,558 will not receive an increment rise in April this year.
It has also agreed to hold talks over a possible redundancy cap for those staff leaving the NHS from April 2015 which would effectively cap redundancy payments to a maximum of £160,000.
According to the Department of Health these changes would mean the deal will not increase the NHS pay bill in 2015-16. It said this has enabled it to make the 1% pay offer.
The offer also includes a commitment from the government to the NHS Pay Review Body to continue to make future recommendations on pay uplift for NHS staff in 2016-17.
Unions held two four-hour strikes last year after the government rejected the review body’s recommendation of a 1% pay increase, claiming it would lead to nursing staff redundancies.
Union members had been due to escalate their protests in England and Northern Ireland with a 24-hour strike on Thursday. They had also been planning to work to rule between 30 January and 24 February, followed by a second 24-hour strike on 25 February.
“This isn’t a great offer but it addresses some of the key concerns unions have about low pay in the NHS”
Unsion head of health and lead negotiator, Christina McAnea said: “The two strike days staged by health workers last year have moved the government to negotiate with the unions.
“This isn’t a great offer but it addresses some of the key concerns unions have about low pay in the NHS. In the interest of patients’ safety unions will now consult members,” she said.
“It will be up to members to decide whether to accept or reject the proposals. If they choose to reject them we will move to further industrial action,” she added.
The deal we’ve put forward on NHS pay is good news for patients, and I welcome the unions calling off strike action.
— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) January 27, 2015
The Royal College of Midwives has confirmed it will suspend industrial action and recommend members accept the offer.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, said: “I am pleased the government came to the negotiating table to seek a solution.
“I believe this offer represents the best that can be achieved by negotiations and we will consult with members in England,” she said.
Meanwhile, GMB national officer Rehana Azam said: “GMB is pleased that after a week of talks we have secured a new offer.
“This enables us to suspend the strike action while we consult with our members on whether they wish to accept the offer or not,” she added.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of the NHS Employers said he was “delighted” Thursday’s strike had been called off saying: “It is the right decision for patients and puts us all in a better position to start talking about long-term solutions.
“If the unions proceed to fully accept the proposed pay agreement it will demonstrate a commitment and signal the start of a period of negotiations to deliver long term pay reform in the NHS,” he added.
The Royal College of Nursing, which chose not to ballot its members for industial action, also welcomed the offer and said its council would be considering the government’s proposals.
Unions and governments in Wales and Scotland have both previously reached agreement on NHS pay rises.
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