More than 50,000 nurses and other health workers in Scotland are being urged to vote in favour of strike action in a ballot which opens today.
The union Unison has officially begun balloting its members over the Scottish Government’s 5% pay rise for NHS staff for 2022-23.
It comes as nursing and midwifery vacancies across the NHS in Scotland jump 24% in a one-year period.
Wilma Brown, chair of Unison Scotland’s health committee and a nurse by background, said: “These are unprecedented times and NHS staff are struggling to make ends meet.
“The Scottish Government’s pay offer is nowhere near enough and leaves everyone in the NHS worse off. It’s a real-terms pay cut across every single NHS salary band.”
She added: “We’re in the biggest cost-of-living and NHS staffing crisis in history and yet the Scottish Government want hard-working health workers to accept a real-terms pay cut.”
Ballots of NHS workers are being held across the UK in the coming weeks following disappointment at the government’s pay awards for the 2022-23 pay cycle for staff on Agenda for Change contracts.
Unison is set to ballot its members in England and Wales at the end of the month, while the Royal College of Nursing’s strike ballot will open across the four UK nations later this week.
Matt McLaughlin, Unison Scotland’s head of health, added: “Ministers need to understand the anger of health staff who are working in an under-funded, under-staffed NHS.
“It’s already an extremely stressful environment without having to worry about how you will pay your bills and feed your family.”
He added: “Nobody wants to take strike action but without an improved pay offer, our members will be left with no choice.
“That is why we are urging our health members to vote in favour of strike action and ballots are being posted today.”
The union said it had written to health boards in the country to advise them of the formal ballot, which will run from Monday 3 October until Monday 31 October.
A recent indicative ballot of Unison Scotland’s health members saw 80% vote in favour of industrial action.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “While we respect the mandate given to trade unions, I am disappointed they voted to reject the record 5% pay deal for NHS Scotland Agenda for Change staff, and are now holding ballots for industrial action. We are re-engaging with trade unions in the hope of reaching a satisfactory outcome.”