Scottish NHS strike may be paused after 11 per cent pay offer

Nurses in scrubs hold up signs demanding fair pay during a march - Mark Kerrison/Getty Images
Nurses in scrubs hold up signs demanding fair pay during a march - Mark Kerrison/Getty Images

Strike action which threatened to cripple the Scottish NHS could be called off after SNP ministers made a “best and final” pay offer worth up to 11 per cent to staff.

The proposed deal, which the Scottish Government said was the highest ever put on the table, would be worth on average 7.5 per cent to workers on NHS Scotland pay scales, with higher awards for the lowest paid and far less for doctors and managers.

Unison, which represents around 50,000 nurses, midwives, cleaners, porters and administrative staff, said it would recommend to its members that the deal is accepted. Unite said it would ballot its members over the offer, and called off work-to-rule action for ambulance drivers scheduled to begin on Friday. The GMB also called off an ambulance workers strike due to begin next week.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), whose members had also voted to strike, said the proposals “still did not meet our members’ expectations” but did not reject the deal, instead saying it would be considered by its board in the coming days.

However, teachers walked out across Scotland on Thursday, closing every school in mainland Scotland.

Teaching union leaders have said that they would refuse to accept a similarly structured deal to the one put to the NHS, as they want all of their members to receive the same amount in percentage terms.

The NHS deal would see the lowest paid workers, who earn £21,692, receive an 11.3 per cent pay rise. Those on the highest pay band, who take home £112,673, would get only a two per cent rise.

‘The best offer possible’

Humza Yousaf, the under-fire SNP health secretary, said the pay deal was worth over £500 million and represented “our commitment to supporting our fantastic NHS staff”.

He added: “We are making this offer at a time of extraordinary financial challenges to the Scottish Government.

“We have made the best offer possible to get money into the pockets of hard-working staff and to avoid industrial action, in what is already going to be an incredibly challenging winter.”

Strikes have threatened to cause chaos within the NHS this winter, with waiting times for accident emergency departments already at record levels and waiting times for operations having spiralled since the pandemic.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Director, said it would ultimately be up to the union’s members to decide whether to call off strike action.

“The revised offer still does not meet our members’ expectations, which is disappointing, but the Scottish Government is saying this is their best offer,” he said.

“The first step is for our board to review the details of the offer ... we will update members once that process has taken place.

“I appreciate it may be frustrating for our members in Scotland, the majority of whom voted very strongly in favour of taking strike action.

“It was that mandate that encouraged the Scottish Government to re-open negotiations. It is right that RCN Scotland Board members consider the offer in the usual way.”

Strike action in the health service south of the border is currently still due to take place, with the RCN set to walk out in England, Wales and Northern Ireland next month. The RCN in Scotland had already paused its plans in light of the renewed negotiations.

James O’Connell, Unite’s lead negotiator for NHS Scotland, said: “We appreciate the work, on all sides, that has gone into achieving this new offer and recognise the direct involvement of the First Minister in helping to obtain an increased offer that could be put to our members for consideration.”