Health unions in England have collectively voted to accept the latest pay offer from the government.
The deal, which will provide Agenda for Change (AfC) staff in England with a lump sum of at least £1,655 and a 5% pay rise, is set to be implemented this summer.
But some health unions, who voted to reject the offer on behalf of their members, have announced that they will remain in formal dispute with the government, with some escalating their strike action.
“NHS workers will now want the pay rise they’ve voted to accept”
It comes as, over recent weeks, ballot results on the latest NHS pay offer had split health unions in England.
Unison, Unite, the GMB, the Royal College of Midwives and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy all voted to accept the offer.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing and Unite rejected the offer.
The unions came together today, along with others, to discuss the results of their ballots at the latest meeting of the NHS Staff Council.
Following a vote, the majority of unions decided to collectively accept the government’s pay offer for Agenda for Change staff in England.
It means staff will get a non-consolidated lump sum payment for 2022-23 of between £1,655 (8.2%) for band 1 to £3,789 (3.5%), to go on top of the average 4.75% consolidated boost already received.
There will also be a consolidated increase for 2023-24 of 5% for all except the lowest-paid staff who would get 10.4%.
Now unions are looking to the government to implement the pay offer as soon as possible.
The chair of the NHS Staff Council and Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton, said: “NHS workers will now want the pay rise they’ve voted to accept.
“The hope is that the one-off payment and salary increase will be in June’s pay packets,” she said.
She added: “This pay deal must be the start of something new in the NHS – there cannot be a repeat of the past few months.
“Everyone who cares about the NHS deserves better. That means improving the process that sets health worker wages.”
Alice Sorby, director for employment relations at the RCM, which also voted to accept the offer, said: “This is a deal that has not been given up willingly by the government.
“It has been achieved by the willingness of our members and those of other unions to stand up and make their voices heard. It is this that moved the government from their earlier inflexible position.
“This dispute was not only about pay but also about improving working conditions and the safety and quality of care for women. Non-pay elements of the deal do start to address some of these issues.
“However, England has a longstanding, serious, and rising midwife shortage,” said Ms Sorby. “Maternity services are also not getting the levels of investment they need.”
“This is a deal that has not been given up willingly by the government”
She added: “Midwives, maternity support workers, and their colleagues deserve the best possible resources to do their jobs, and we will maintain pressure on the Government to deliver that for them.”
While the vote has now put an end to the pay dispute for some unions, for others it has only prompted warnings of an escalation of the industrial action that has been taking place over recent months.
This afternoon the general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Pat Cullen, sent a letter to the health and social care secretary, Steve Barclay, explaining that the union had used its votes to reject the pay offer.
She said: “Despite today’s meeting and the outcome that reflects the votes across all unions, the RCN remains in formal dispute with the government and the NHS over pay levels.
“I entirely respect those, in our membership and that of other unions, who voted to accept, however, that was not the prevailing view of nursing staff.
“Nursing is the largest part of the NHS workforce and they require an offer that matches their true value,” she said.
Ms Cullen noted that later this month the RCN will ballot 280,000 members in the NHS in England over further strike action to be held between June and December this year.
This will be an England-wide ballot which, if supported, “would provide the legal mandate to take strike action across the full NHS”, she said.
Ms Cullen said: “Two weeks ago, I accepted your invitation of a meeting to discuss a way forward and I would still wish to meet.
“It is my view that negotiations and a resulting additional offer that values nursing staff can prevent further action and bring this dispute to a close.”
Meanwhile, Unite also announced today that, following its recent ballot where members voted to reject the offer, it will be escalating its strike action.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “The staff council vote is not binding on individual unions and, therefore, the vote will not stop Unite representing the best interests of our members.
“The current offer will not solve the huge issues surrounding understaffing that are destroying the NHS and Unite’s members have their union’s absolute backing in fighting against it.
“It now time for the government to reopen negotiations,” he she said. “The prime minister needs to stop hiding, step in and solve this dispute.”
Responding to the NHS Staff Council’s decision, the chief executive of NHS Providers, Sir Julian Hartley, said: “Trust leaders are breathing a sigh of relief at today’s decision.
“We hope that this brings an end to the most disruptive period of industrial action in NHS history,” he said.
Sir Julian noted that he hoped this “breakthrough” signalled an opportunity for the government and unions to “reset their relationship” and to resolve wider, ongoing issues affecting the NHS.
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, echoed these sentiments, describing how all unions remained concerned about the impact of cost-of-living on staff, as well as other “present difficulties”.
He added: “The decision by the NHS Staff Council Trade Unions to accept the pay offer they agreed with the government is very positive.”
“With four unions having rejected the pay deal individually for their members, we await confirmation of their plans.”
The health and social care secretary, Steve Barclay, said: “I’m pleased the NHS Staff Council has voted to accept our pay offer, demonstrating that a majority of NHS staff agree this is a fair and reasonable deal.
“It is now my intention to implement this for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract and where some unions may choose to remain in dispute, we hope their members – many of whom voted to accept this offer – will recognise this as a fair outcome that carries the support of their colleagues and decide it is time to bring industrial action to an end.
“We will continue to engage constructively with unions on workforce changes to ensure the NHS is the best place to work for staff, patients and taxpayers,” he said in a statement.