The Welsh Government has put forward an “additional financial package” for nurses and other NHS workers in the country in an attempt to end the ongoing dispute over pay.
While there is currently little detail about what the offer entails, it is understood to include a one-off payment for staff across the Welsh NHS.
“From the perspective of nursing staff, the Welsh Government are not negotiating seriously on NHS pay”
However, the Royal College of Nursing has accused the Welsh Government of “not negotiating seriously on NHS pay” and warned ministers to prepare for more strikes.
The news follows a meeting between Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan and health unions held earlier today on pay for 2022-23.
RCN Wales director Helen Whyley said following today’s discussions, “we are still no further forward”.
“Yet again, the Welsh Government has blamed the UK Government’s lack of additional funding for public services rather than taking responsibility to invest in Welsh nurses delivering Welsh NHS services for Welsh people,” she added.
“Welsh Government continue to fail dismally to resolve the RCN’s pay dispute and to address the extensive and unsustainable nursing staffing crisis in the NHS.”
She added: “The approach put forward today is simply not enough to offer a substantiative and restorative pay award to our members, which is what we have called for all along.”
Ms Whyley warned further strike action could be announced “imminently” unless the Welsh Government acted.
“From the perspective of nursing staff, the Welsh Government are not negotiating seriously on NHS pay,” she said.
“Unless they do so urgently, we will be announcing further strike days for Wales, imminently.”
Unison Wales said it would now consider the offer.
Dominic MacAskill, regional secretary of Unison Wales, said: “Today is a start in the process.
“No specific offer was made to healthcare workers in the meeting, but Welsh Government has identified an additional financial package which covers the whole of the NHS in Wales.
“Now the trade unions will enter negotiations over whether this constitutes a credible offer that addresses the cost-of-living crisis.”
He added: “We recognise the Welsh Government is limited in what it can do and we need to see a meaningful end to this crisis from the UK Government in Westminster which meets the approval of the many thousands of health workers we represent who are now at breaking point.”
“Now the trade unions will enter negotiations over whether this constitutes a credible offer”
Mr MacAskill welcomed the “engagement of the Welsh Government” which he said was “prepared to talk about 2022-23 pay” unlike the government in England.
Following the meeting, health minister Ms Morgan said: “I want to thank all the health unions for attending today’s meeting and for engaging in the discussion constructively.
“We recognise and respect the strength of feeling among the membership of the unions, which has been expressed through the recent ballots for industrial action and the strikes.
“I hope we can continue these discussions in the spirit of social partnership.”
Thousands of nurses took to the picket lines last month as part of a fight for fair pay, including in Wales, as organised by the RCN.
While the college has a mandate to continue strike action in the coming months in Wales, it is yet to announce further dates. However, RCN members in England will be striking next week on two back-to-back days.
Unison head of health Sara Gorton said the news in Wales “significantly ups the pressure on Westminster”.
Talks between health and social care secretary Steve Barclay and health unions earlier this week failed to resolve the ongoing dispute over pay in England.
Ms Gorton said: “Unless ministers move quickly to boost pay for health workers in England, it’ll be plain to the public the government isn’t interested in improving patient care.”
She warned that longer waits for ambulances and in A&E departments were “inevitable if the NHS doesn’t get more staff”.
“Better wages are the key to that,” she added.
Ms Gorton claimed the “tone in parts of government changed this week with a new willingness to talk about pay”.
“It’s time for the prime minister to show he values the NHS by funding the pay rise needed to end the disputes and get the NHS back on track,” she added.