NHS unions to vote on new pay deal proposed by Scottish government

Health workers across the UK are mobilizing for industrial action starting with a strike by nurses in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland on December 15 and 20

November 29, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
NHS Scotland
Campaign by UNISON union demanding pay rise for NHS workers. (Photo: UNISON Scotland)

Unions of health workers of the National Health Service (NHS) of Scotland have decided to go for a vote on the new pay offer proposed by the Scottish government on November 24. Following extensive talks with union representatives last week, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf proposed an annual pay hike averaging 7.5% to NHS Scotland workers.

Health workers had earlier announced industrial action demanding a wage hike. Following the announcement of a new pay offer, unions suspended the planned strike and called for voting on the deal. Voting among the membership of UNISON and Unite the Union will continue till December 12. The GMB union has also called for a vote. While the nursing union Royal College of Nursing (RCN) expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed rate of pay increase, it was announced that RCN Scotland Board members will undertake a detailed assessment of the new offer. 

According to reports, the Scottish government has agreed for an annual pay rise from “£2,205 (USD 2,654.82) for staff in Bands 1 to 4 and up to £2,660 (USD 3,202.64) for staff in Bands 5 to 7, retrospectively from April this year.”

For the past several years, especially under the rule of the Conservative Party, the NHS has seen steady underfunding and bids for privatization. The health service was stretched beyond its limit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Grossly underpaid NHS workers are now finding it difficult to make ends meet amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.

James O’Connell, Unite’s lead negotiator for NHS Scotland, said on November 24, “Unite believes that the improved offer deserves to be considered by our members across the NHS. We will be balloting members on this offer and it is for them to decide if the offer meets their expectations.”

“We appreciate the work on all sides that has gone into achieving this new offer and recognize the direct involvement of the First Minister in helping to obtain an increased offer that could be put to our members for consideration.” 

Last week, reports emerged about health authorities allegedly scheming to covertly introduce two-tier services in the Scottish NHS, where people who can afford to pay would be charged for medical and care services. The reports provoked strong reactions from unions and other sections, who slammed the move as a bid for privatization of the NHS. Following this, First Minister Sturgeon herself had to clarify that she is against charging for NHS services.

The latest developments take place even as health workers across the UK are gearing up for strikes in the coming months. RCN members in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are set to go on strike on December 15 and 20. Several ballots of workers on the issue of industrial action have concluded. The results of UNISON’s ballots of around 300,000 health workers in England and Wales should be out this week while its members in Northern Ireland have already voted for industrial action. The decision of thousands of ambulance workers who are members of the GMB Union will also be known soon. Balloting is also ongoing among thousands of workers in the UK on similar lines.