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Strike ballot threat after union rejects pay offer

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Opponents of the 8% three-year pay deal for nurses and non-medical NHS staff launched a last-ditch attempt to derail the plans last week.

Unite, which represents health visitors and support staff, announced results of a ballot in which 94.8% of respondents rejected the offer, which has been accepted by RCN and Unison members.

Unite is now threatening a ballot on industrial action.

It wants to take the 2.75% recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body in 2008–2009, and reject the 2.4% and 2.25% rises in the following two years.

Karen Reay, Unite health sector national officer, said: ‘Our members must not be forced to take the blame for inflation. Services will suffer and demoralisation will result in an inability to recruit and retain essential NHS staff.’

Other health unions such as the GMB and RCM are also opposed to the deal. But under the collective bargaining system used to negotiate national changes in Agenda for Change pay scales, the larger size of Unison and RCN means the deal should still be officially accepted.

The deal’s key negotiators from the RCN and Unison hope to defuse the situation this week. They have compiled a statement on the deal’s re-opener clause, which allows negotiations to be re-opened if the economy worsens.

They want all the health unions to sign up to the statement, which is expected to call on the government to renegotiate the deal before the end of the year if inflation continues to rise.

‘We are all concerned about what is happening to inflation since we negotiated the deal at the end of March,’ said Mike Jackson, Unison senior national officer.

He added that a regular meeting of unions last week may have also helped close the rift. ‘We had a frank but positive discussion,’ he said.`***

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