Unions have agreed to accept the government’s pay offer for NHS staff in England, following a crunch meeting with employers today.
The decision means they have called off further industrial action, which was suspended when the government put forward a new offer in January.
“There is still the residual bad feeling about what happened last year with Jeremy Hunt’s decision not to implement a pay recommendation by the review body”
The government’s proposed offer was overwhelmingly accepted at today’s NHS Staff Council meeting between unions – including Unison, the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives and Unite – and employers.
The deal for 2015-16 will see all NHS staff in England who earn up to pay point 42 – the second point on band 8c (£56,504) – receive a 1% consolidated pay rise on 1 April.
However, all NHS workers on pay point 34 – the second point of band 8a (£40,458) – and above will see their increment pay frozen.
Staff at the lower end of Agenda for Change pay scales will receive additional benefits, such as an additional £200 consolidated payment for those on pay points 3 to 8 – those who earn up to £17,425.
The government also made a commitment to continue to use the independent NHS Pay Review Body when deciding future remuneration for health service staff.
Unison, the RCN and RCM have all announced over recent weeks that their members had voted to accept the deal, while Unite had not revealed its ballot results until today.
The RCN said 60% of members who voted were in favour and 40% against, while 67% of Unison voters were in favour and 32% were against.
Meanwhile, GMB said 81% of its NHS members in England voted to accept and 19% to reject. The RCM announced that its members wanted to accept the deal at the end of February.
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Unite’s national officer for health Barrie Brown told Nursing Times today that 51% of its members taking part in the ballot had voted to reject the offer, while 49% had accepted.
He said on that basis, the union had been the only union to reject the offer at the meeting today.
“There was overhwelming acceptance of the pay offer by all the unions, with one exception being Unite because we had a very narrow vote to reject,” he said.
He added: “Within our membership we’ve got hospital physicists who are highly paid and highly skilled scientists, pharmacists who are also in bands 8 and 9, and also clinical pyschologists, so we have a significant proportion who are in the higher bands who are going to get absolutely nothing from the pay award.”
“On the other hand a lot of the lower paid staff are getting a pretty good deal and we support that as we have done in the past,” he said.
“Employers do understand the anxieties of staff and urgently want to discuss sustainable ways to move away from pay restraint”
He added: “But there is still the residual bad feeling about what happened last year with [health secretary] Jeremy Hunt’s decision not to implement a pay recommendation by the review body, which had never been done before.”
Mr Brown said other longer term elements included within the pay deal – such as arrangements for Agenda for Change in the future – would now need to be consulted on.
Christina McAnea, chair of the trade union representation on the NHS Staff Council and head of health for Unison, said: “The determination and courage of health workers up and down the country forced the government to negotiate with the health unions.
“The pay deal will make a difference to over 250,000 of the lowest-paid workers in the NHS.”
She added: “By ignoring the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body for England, the government angered a whole workforce, with some taking strike action for the first time in 34 years, and others for the first time ever.
“The campaign to improve pay in the NHS goes on. Health workers will not sit back and do nothing when their standard of living is being attacked. This should send a strong warning to any government elected in May.”
Responding to the decision, Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “This will be a huge relief for NHS organisations and for the thousands of patients and staff who were disrupted by industrial action.
“Employers do understand the anxieties of staff and urgently want to discuss sustainable ways to move away from pay restraint,” he said. “We are now in a position to start those crucial discussions.
“Any solution will need to support better, safer and more responsive services to patients and more efficient use of NHS resources,” he added.
The government put forward its renewed pay offer for all NHS staff in England in January, causing unions to suspend a planned 12-hour strike in order to consult members on the proposals.
The move followed two four-hour strikes held in the autumn – on 13 October and on 24 November.