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NHS staff vote to accept new pay offer in Wales

NHS staff belonging to UNISON in Wales have voted to accept a new pay offer, as confirmed last week. UNISON, the largest health union in Wales, has been engaging with staff regarding the Welsh government’s pay offer for 2023/24 and an additional one-off ‘recovery payment’ for the previous financial year. The ballot, which closed earlier today, revealed that a significant majority of 78% voted in favor of accepting the offer, with only 22% voting to reject it.

Since the end of April, NHS staff across Wales have participated in UNISON’s online consultation to provide input on additional pay for 2022/23 and 2023/24. Other health unions have also been involved in similar consultations. The offer includes a 5% wage increase, which will be payable from 1 April 2023, and an additional one-off payment for 2022/23, ranging between £900 and £1,190.

All NHS unions will discuss their consultation results later this month on Monday, 22 May, in preparation for a meeting with the Welsh government the following day. Jess Turner, head of bargaining and campaigns for UNISON Cymru/Wales, stated, “Health workers have sent a clear message. Of course, NHS staff want and deserve more, but they’ve opted to accept this offer and the certainty it brings them. This acceptance might end UNISON’s NHS dispute, but it doesn’t solve the significant workforce issues facing the health service. The most pressing is tackling the growing staffing emergency and health worker burnout. The NHS is one team. Every job and every worker make an essential contribution to patient care.”

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, also released a statement, expressing gratitude for the positive attitude shown by the unions during negotiations. The offer, which exceeds the Pay Review Body recommendations, consists of a 3% non-consolidated increase for 2022/23, along with an additional one-off NHS Recovery Payment. For 2023/24, a consolidated across-the-board increase of 5% will be implemented, and the bottom two pay points will be raised to match the salary of the top of Band 2, resulting in a 7.8% increase.

If accepted, this offer would mean that Welsh NHS staff will have received an average award of over 15.7% over the two-year period of 2022/23 and 2023/24. The lowest-paid NHS staff would see a pay increase of over 26%, bringing their salaries above the real living wage rate.

The negotiations have been challenging, considering the difficult financial position of the Welsh Government. However, they have worked collaboratively with the health unions to reach this final offer. While not all trade unions were able to recommend the offer, the Welsh Government hopes that it will be accepted by all unions to put an end to the industrial action on pay in NHS Wales.

In response to the outcome of the pay offer, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, commended the collective decision to accept the offer after months of negotiation and disruption. He emphasized the importance of clarity regarding the funding of this package to avoid any negative impact on patient care and the ability to address the lengthy waiting lists. Concerns still remain about the two unions that remain in dispute and the potential for further industrial action.

Despite the challenges, the acceptance of the pay offer signifies a positive step forward for NHS staff in Wales, ensuring greater financial stability and addressing some of the pressing workforce issues within the healthcare system.