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NHS strikes to continue after unions reject Welsh Government’s offer

Nurses and ambulance staff are set to continue striking after unions rejected the Welsh Government’s offer of a one-off payment for its workers.

A number of health unions took part in talks with government representatives, including health minister Eluned Morgan, on Thursday to see if they could end the dispute over pay.

Ms Morgan set out her plan to give health workers a lump sum, but union bosses said the cash payment was “not enough” to address real problems caused by sub-inflation wages.

The amount that was proposed has not been disclosed.

Further talks are said to being arranged for next week to continue the negotiations.

The minister thanked the unions “for engaging in the discussion constructively” and said she hoped to “continue these discussions in the spirit of social partnership”.

Helen Whyley, director of Royal College of Nurses (RCN) Wales, accused the government of “not negotiating seriously on NHS pay”.

“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,” Ms Whyley said.

“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.

“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.

Industrial strike
Members of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on the picket line (James Manning/PA)

“From the perspective of nursing staff, the Welsh Government are not negotiating seriously on NHS pay.

“Unless they do so urgently, we will be announcing further strike days for Wales, imminently.”

GMB’s Nathan Holman said: “We have not had an offer that we can put to our members yet.

“GMB made the minister aware that our members would not accept a one-off payment as this would not be sufficient to address the real problems with pay.

“GMB, of course will remain around the table to negotiate however, our members will continue to fight for fair pay and we will have no alternative than to continue with industrial action.”

Adam Morgan, from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in Wales, said: “The Welsh Government demonstrated today that it is willing to negotiate on pay, which is a welcome development and hopefully moves us closer to resolving this dispute.

“However, it is just the start and until a concrete offer is made that we can take back to our members, we cannot suspend our strike action.

“Our members across Wales gave us a mandate because they knew the current pay award was too little to help them through the cost of living crisis and would do nothing to address the workforce crisis.

“That remains the case as of now, and we will announce our strike dates in due course.”

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said the day’s discussion placed more pressure on Westminster to respond to the demands of NHS workers in England.

Ms Gorton said: “Rishi Sunak must now explain why the first ministers in Scotland and Wales can dig deep for NHS staff, but his government can’t.

“The latest NHS England figures show ambulance delays and waiting times in A&E are the worst ever, leaving the Prime Minister and the chancellor with nowhere to hide.

“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.”

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Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison (Yui Mok/PA)

The Welsh Government last year gave NHS staff a pay rise of between 4% and 5.5%.

Health unions have said they want an inflation busting pay reward of around 19%.

The Scottish Government negotiated a deal with unions in November to give workers an average 7.5% pay uplift.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has said his government is not in a position to offer more money unless it received further funding from the UK Government.

There are currently no more nurses strikes planned in Wales, however ambulance staff who are members of Unite, will walk out on January 19 and 23 for 24 hours.