The Scottish Government is to implement its pay offer for NHS staff despite it being rejected by some unions and amid the threat of nurse strike action in the new year.
The move will see NHS nurses in Scotland, working between Band 5 and Band 8A, given pay increases of between £2,450 and £2,751 for 2022-23.
“This is not the Christmas present nurses deserve”
According to the government, the new rates of pay will take effect in January, and backpay will be given as soon as possible and be backdated to April 2022.
In recent weeks, health unions have been balloting nurses and other NHS staff on this revised pay award from the government, which was unveiled last month and had been described as its “best and final” offer.
While the government said the “majority” of unions had accepted the improved deal, including Unison and Unite, the Royal College of Nursing and GMB had not.
And this week it was announced that following RCN Scotland nurses’ decision to reject the offer, the college would push forward with strike dates in the new year.
Previously, the Scottish Government had offered an across-the-board £2,205 pay uplift for all NHS Agenda for Change staff.
Health secretary Mr Yousaf said he had met with NHS trade unions today and “listened to their feedback following their ballots on the [revised] pay deal”.
“Given that the majority of unions representing the majority of unionised Agenda for Change staff have accepted the pay deal, we will now move to implement this record pay deal,” he said in a statement after the meeting.
“We believe it is right to get additional money into the pay packet of NHS staff in the midst of a cost of living crisis.
“NHS staff need the certainty of a pay uplift in this financial year, and I can only do this by implementing the deal now.
“This deal is the biggest since devolution, represents an investment of over half a billion pounds and ensures our hard working NHS staff remain the best paid in the UK.”
Mr Yousaf claimed he was “absolutely committed to meaningful dialogue” with unions to try and “avert strike action”.
He also said he was “prepared to meet throughout the festive period to continue that dialogue”.
“I need to be upfront and honest that I have no more money for pay in 2022-23, however I am keen to discuss how we make progress on significant non-pay issues that are important for the sustainability of the workforce, and also how we make early progress on next year’s pay deal,” he added.
But RCN Scotland director Colin Poolman said nurses would be “furious” that the government had “chosen to ignore their voice”.
“There is no doubt that our members are long overdue a pay increase for this year, but this is not the Christmas present they deserve,” he added.
Mr Poolman claimed this was the second year in a row that the government had implemented “what is a real terms pay cut”.
The RCN has been campaigning for a 5% above inflation pay rise for NHS nurses across the UK.
But the Scottish Government’s deal will see NHS workers given an average 7.5% pay uplift for 2022-23.
“Mr Yousaf says that he is open to continuing discussions with the RCN to try to avert strike action, but any further talks must be meaningful,” said Mr Poolman.
“We are mindful that we have sister unions in dispute and we will continue to support them in any way possible”
“The pay offer is not what is needed to recognise our members’ safety critical role, stop nursing staff leaving the profession or attract the nurses of the future.”
He added: “We will continue our planning for strike action in the new year and early in January we will announce dates for historic strike action in Scotland.
“Our members do not want to go on strike but years of being ignored and understaffed have left them with no alternative.”
The RCN has secured a mandate for strike action across all NHS employers in Scotland, as per the results of its formal strike action ballot unveiled in early November.
Meanwhile, Matt McLaughlin, Unison Scotland’s lead officer for health, told Nursing Times that this pay award from the Scottish Government “has been a long time coming”.
He said: “The majority of unions representing the majority of workers in the NHS in Scotland have accepted the offer and we therefore welcome government’s commitment to implement the pay deal.
“However, we are mindful that we have sister unions in dispute and we will continue to support them in any way possible.”
Members of the GMB union also voted to reject the latest pay offer by 66%.
Responding to the news that the Scottish Government intends to impose the pay award, GMB senior organiser for public services, Keir Greenaway, said this was “an attack on workers”.
He said: “Our members will not be silenced. They have spoken loudly and clearly that the offer is not good enough.
“Our members will consider their next steps, but the Scottish Government is forcing NHS and [Scottish Ambulance Service] staff onto the picket lines.”
Mr Greenaway added: “GMB Scotland is always open to further discussions. The Scottish Government needs to think again if it wants to avert strike action.”
The Royal College of Midwives, whose members also voted against the pay award, said it had written to the cabinet secretary to urge him to reopen negotiations.
RCM director for Scotland, Jaki Lambert, said: “Let us be clear: this is an imposition, not an acceptance, of the pay award.
“Our members have consistently spoken loud and clear – this pay offer by the Scottish Government is simply not good enough.”