Union representatives for nurses in Wales are set to sit down with the Welsh Government tomorrow to discuss a new pay offer which is intended to avert further days of strike action.
The offer was sent to nursing and other healthcare unions by Wales’ health minister Eluned Morgan last Friday, and includes a one-off payment for nurses and other NHS workers in Wales, but no substantive change to nursing pay.
“We have managed to find a sum of money that would enable us to make a one-off payment to NHS staff before the end of this financial year”
Nurses in Wales voted to go on strike following a below-inflation pay award of around 4-5% for 2022-23, based on the recommendations of the independent pay review body.
The Royal College of Nursing has been campaigning for a pay increase of 5% above RPI inflation for 2022-23, which currently would entail a pay award of more than 19%.
Nurses in Wales have already taken two days of strike action on 15 and 20 December, at the same time as strikes took place across Northern Ireland and some parts of England.
While the RCN has scheduled a second wave of strike days to take place in England next week, on 18 and 19 January, no further strike action by nurses has yet been scheduled to take place in Wales.
However, director of RCN Wales, Helen Whyley, wrote to the Welsh Government following the second strike day in December, warning that more strike days would be announced unless the government showed a “genuine commitment” to resolving the pay dispute.
On Tuesday, first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, revealed some details of the offer that the Welsh Government would be putting forward to healthcare trade unions this week.
He said that it would include a one-off non-consolidated pay award for NHS staff, to be paid out of this financial year’s budget for 2022-23, although he did not reveal the amount that would be offered.
In addition to the one-off payment, the Welsh Government would be open to discussing ways to address staff welfare issues, and reducing expenditure on agency staff.
“A one-off payment is not the significant and substantive pay rise that we have been calling for”
It would also be looking for ways to work together with healthcare unions to restore confidence in the pay review body process.
However, the first minister said that he was “not in a position” to offer a higher pay award for 2022-23, because nursing pay in Wales is tied to the pay level in England.
“The amount of money we are able to put on the table for recurrent pay awards is absolutely linked to the level of pay awards that are struck in England,” he said.
Mr Drakeford continued: “But we have managed to find a sum of money that would enable us to make a one-off payment to NHS staff before the end of this financial year.
“And that is what we will be discussing with our trade union colleagues when we meet them hopefully later this week.”
RCN Wales associate director employment relations Nicky Hughes welcomed the “step forward” taken by the Welsh Government in asking to reopen negotiations.
“It is encouraging and indeed a step forward that the Welsh Government have requested to meet with us and open negotiations once more,” she said.
But she warned that RCN Wales as well as other NHS unions would need to see a commitment to fair pay for nursing.
“A one-off payment is not the significant and substantive pay rise that we have been calling for,” she added.
“We want a commitment from Welsh Government to provide a fair pay award for nursing that addresses the 3,000 vacancies in Wales, that encourages nurses to stay in the profession and that ensures the delivery of safe patient care.
“We will, however, give Welsh Government the time and space to make its case.”
She said any offers would be put to members and warned it was still ready to strike should it be required.