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Talks with health unions ‘constructive’ as strike action remains on hold

Talks with health unions ‘constructive’ as strike action remains on hold

Negotiations with health unions have been constructive and will carry on into next week, the Government has said as strike action remains on hold.

Unions representing ambulance workers, physiotherapists, nurses and midwives have been in talks with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) since Tuesday in an attempt to resolve a bitter dispute over pay.

A DHSC spokesperson said on Thursday: “The Government, NHS employers and unions representing the Agenda for Change workforce have been holding constructive and meaningful discussions over the past few days, covering pay and non-pay matters.

“These talks will continue into next week.”

The Government has previously indicated it will only be able to give NHS staff on the Agenda for Change contract – which includes the majority of NHS workers apart from doctors, dentists and very senior managers – a maximum of a 3.5% uplift in next year’s pay award.

But it has been suggested that there may be some wriggle room on this figure during negotiations, and discussions may be focusing on other issues including staff banding, work hours, pay at the lower pay rates and the way the pay is set each year, it is understood.

Union representatives declined to comment individually on the progress of talks on Thursday, but offered their support for the Government’s statement. Both parties have vowed not to give a running commentary during the negotiations.

Four of the unions involved, GMB, Unison, Unite, and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, called off strike action in order to facilitate the ongoing talks.

The Royal College of Nursing also averted strikes at the beginning of March when they entered into pay negotiation with the Government.

The unions directly involved in the talks are Unison; the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy; GMB; Unite; the Royal College of Midwives; and the Royal College of Nursing.

Talks do not involve junior doctors, who will walk out for 72 hours on Monday.