Strikes suspended as NHS unions face new salary offer

Ambulance strikes next week have been suspended after ministers offered NHS workers a 5 per cent increase for 2023-24 to put an end to strikes by nurses and paramedics. The Independent have learned

Ministers offered nurses, paramedics, 999 call workers and other health workers a 5.2 per cent increase after initially saying they could not exceed a 3.5 per cent increase.

Unions have also been offered two one-off payments for 2022-23, a two percent payment and a second “Covid recovery bonus” that will range from 6.2 percent for the lowest-paid to 1.5 percent for the highest-paid.

The Government has also pledged a range of ‘unpaid measures’ to support the NHS workforce including ‘support for carers’, ‘building a workforce for the future’, ‘career development and support’, ‘fighting violence and aggression’ . and “pension reduction”.

Unions will meet later this afternoon to discuss the offer and negotiations are ongoing, The Independent was told.

Strikes by nurses and ambulances were suspended two weeks ago after the government agreed to start negotiations over pay. The unions have met with the government and today they were offered a new deal.

The Independent understands unions have been offered a one-off bonus of two per cent for all staff for 2022-23 and a Covid recovery bonus equivalent to 4 per cent of the NHS payroll for nurses, ambulances and other NHS workers.

The second part of the offer is a 5.2 per cent pay rise for 2023-24 and finally a series of “unpaid measures” to support the NHS workforce.

A source said unions had until 2pm this afternoon to decide. However, if accepted, the unions must submit the offer to their members for a vote.

The Independent understands that under the 2022-23 offer, a new nurse working at pay grade 5 would receive a one-off payment of £1,891, £1,934 or £2,009. This group would then see an increase of £1,352, £1,459 or £1,647 in their annual salary for 2023-24.

The Royal College of Nursing, Unison, Unite, GMB and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy are among the unions that have negotiated with the government over the past two weeks.

Since December, the NHS has seen several strikes by nurses and ambulance workers over pay. The Government has previously indicated it could only afford a 3.5 per cent pay rise for NHS workers.

The RCN originally called for a 19 percent wage increase to address real pay cuts, but said unions would settle for 10 percent this year.

On Thursday, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the UK government wanted to “reach a fair agreement on pay” to resolve public sector strikes.

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today program why there was no money in his budget for public sector settlements, the Chancellor said: “We are having talks, pretty good talks I think, with the unions.

“We were very flexible in terms of what we were willing to offer. The only stipulation we place on these talks is that we cannot make an offer that would itself fuel inflation and mean we have the same talks this time next year.

“What I want to say to all of you is that when the price of the weekly grocery has gone up, the price of gas has gone up and so on, we realize how difficult it has been.

“That is why we are investing an average of around £3,000 per household this year and next to support people through a difficult time. But we also want to come to a fair agreement on payment.”

When asked if there could be more money for nurses and ambulances, Mr Hunt replied: “We don’t have an agreement yet so I can’t tell you what the quantum is.” I’m confident we will have an agreement . I think we’ve had some very positive conversations, but let’s see where it ends today.”

Asked whether more than the 3.5 per cent increase recommended by the Department of Health and Social Care for 2023/24 could be agreed, Mr Hunt said: “I will only say if the Government says we make another deal will, we will find a way to pay for it. Yes, we would like to resolve these disputes.”

Unison and GMB members in Scotland are currently voting on a new offer from the Scottish Government that would see an average pay rise of 6.5 per cent for 2023-24.

The latest offer for England comes after a three-day strike by junior doctors this week. This group, represented by the British Medical Association and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, was not involved in negotiations with other unions.

Negotiations between the doctors’ unions and the government have yet to begin. Strikes suspended as NHS unions face new salary offer

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