Results of a ballot from Unison are likely to be announced on Friday, the deadline for the return of ballot papers.
Mike Jackson, Unison senior national officer, said: ‘It is the most important decision NHS workers have had to make since Agenda for Change four years ago – it is vital everybody votes.’
There is the possibility of a split decision with Unison members rejecting and the RCN accepting.
The RCN is due to announce the outcome of its consultation on the pay offer this week after it finished last week. Its council has already recommended the deal to members.
Either way, the staff-side negotiating team will have to make a judgement on balance whether to formally reject or accept the deal on behalf of the profession – as Agenda for Change stipulates that all nurses must get the same percentage increase.
Josie Irwin, RCN head of employment relations, said that if the pay offer was rejected or there was a split decision, the government was likely to try and push through a weaker pay rise.
‘In that case it is likely to be a one-year settlement,’ she told NT.
NHS chief executive David Nicholson has previously warned that the government reserved the right to reduce or stage the 2.75% offer recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body (NT News, 15 April 2008, p3).
The third largest nursing union, Unite/Amicus, is to ballot members from next week after attempts to bring the government back to the negotiating table failed.
The union’s council had previously rejected the deal on behalf of its nurse members but the government’s refusal to discuss a change in the offer has led to the union deciding to ballot its nurse members to increase pressure.
Around 12,000 ancillary and ambulance staff members have already rejected the deal in a separate ballot. Last week the RCM and GMB also rejected it but the Society of Radiographers opted to accept the offer.