Crucial meeting between unions and NHS employers over long-running strikes

A crucial meeting will be held on Tuesday between unions and NHS employers which is expected to pave the way for the Government to implement a pay rise aimed at resolving the long-running health workers dispute.

The NHS Staff Council will hear reports from unions which have balloted hundreds of thousands of health workers in recent weeks.

Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite rejected the offer of a 5% pay rise for this year and a cash sum for last year, leading both unions to hold strikes on Monday.

But other unions – including Unison, the GMB and those representing midwives and physiotherapists – voted in favour.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The unions will report the ballot results to today’s meeting with employers and the Health Department and will then vote on whether the offer should be accepted.

It is expected there will be a majority in favour, which would pave the way for the Government to implement the pay rise to all health workers covered by the agreement, including members of the RCN and Unite.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay told journalists on Monday: “I’m cautiously optimistic that the Staff Council will agree to vote in favour of the deal.

“But I think it’s right to wait until Tuesday for the Staff Council to meet and this strike is premature.

“I think it’s disrespectful to the other trade unions. I think the RCN should have waited. They’re a member of the Staff Council. They were part of the negotiations.”

The RCN is pressing ahead with a fresh ballot to see if its members want to continue taking industrial action irrespective of what happens at today’s meeting.

RCN members will return to work on Tuesday after their latest strike in England in protest at the pay offer.

Industrial strike
General secretary of the Royal College of Nursing Pat Cullen (Lucy North/PA)

RCN general secretary Pat Cullen joined a picket line in London on Monday, saying: “What our members are saying to the Secretary of State and Government is we are not going to go away.

“We will remain on our picket lines to have a voice heard for our patients.

“We will continue to lose a day’s pay standing on picket lines for our patients so that’s how important it is to them and they want to have their voice heard.

“How are they going to have their voice heard and have this brought to a conclusion without the Secretary of State getting into a room and starting to negotiate again with me.

“Pay those people a decent wage, the offer that was put on the table didn’t address the issues with nursing and it didn’t address the issues within the health service and that’s fundamentally what needs to happen right away.”

Cabinet meeting
Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

She claimed Health Secretary Steve Barclay has “lost the public and certainly lost any respect that our nursing staff had for him and this Government”.

Unite members at South Central, South East Coast and West Midlands ambulance trusts alongside workers at Christies NHS Foundation Trust, Christies Pathology Partnership, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust will all take part in industrial action on Tuesday.

Unite national officer Onay Kasab said: “We had been clear with ministers from the outset that the offer of a real terms pay cut sweetened with a one-off cash payment was very likely to be rejected by our members and it has.

“It does not go far enough to address the massive problems facing the NHS due to overworked and underpaid workers leaving in droves. Our members will be on the picket lines with Unite’s total support until ministers come back with an acceptable offer.”

Industrial strike
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of National Education Union (Ben Birchall/PA)

Meanwhile, members of the National Education Union in England will stage a 24-hour strike on Tuesday in their bitter pay dispute.

School and classroom closures will force parents to keep their children home again.

The union is urging the Government to hold fresh talks in a bid to break the deadlock.

Four unions representing teachers and head teachers have warned they will co-ordinate future industrial action if the row is not resolved.

Staff at the Care Quality Commission (CQC) will strike today in another long-running dispute over pay.

Members of Unison, Unite and the Public and Commercial Services union will walk out, including those working in inspection teams, call centres and data analysis, will walk out.

Meanwhile, members of the Unite union working for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have rejected a pay offer from the College and pledged to strike between May 15 and 17 and May 23 and 25 during the College’s annual conference.