Cymru/Wales NHS members to vote on industrial action

UNISON’s Cymru/Wales NHS members are to be balloted over industrial action as part of the union’s long-running pay campaign.

The Cymru/Wales health committee yesterday voted unanimously to move towards a ballot, which will ask members to reject the Welsh government’s pay award for NHS staff in Wales and to vote for both strike action and action short of strike.

A similar ballot for the union’s NHS members in England has already been agreed.

As in England, the offer by the Welsh Government has not matched the recommendation of the independent Pay Review Body (PRB) for the NHS of a 1% increase to all pay points, for all staff across all four countries.

The Welsh offer is:

  • a flat cash payment of £160 to everyone, in addition to the continuation of incremental progression for staff entitled to receive an increment;
  • the introduction of a living wage in NHS Wales;
  • to rectify the anomaly between pay points 15 and 16, which will ensure incremental progression will provide a minimum uplift of 1%;
  • no pay award for very senior managers for 2014-15;
  • commitment to negotiations on a consolidated pay award for 2015-16.

UNISON Cymru/Wales head of health Dawn Bowden commented: “We understand the very difficult financial situation that the Welsh government finds itself in as a result of UK funding cuts. However, we do not believe it is right that our members have to pay the price for this. 

“While UNISON has welcomed the minister’s announcement on the introduction of the living wage into NHS Wales, we do not accept that a £160, non-consolidated one-off payment is the best that could be done for the rest of our members. 

“The Welsh government had indicated that it had a small pot of money available to pay something to staff in NHS Wales. And UNISON had given a clear indication how we felt that could be used to best effect.

“To have that view totally ignored is something we find difficult to swallow, given the way in which we have co-operated with the government through the financial difficulties of the last 18 months. To our members, this feels like a kick in teeth.”

Regional secretary Margaret Thomas said: “The difference in the award to UNISON members and what is to be paid to some of the highest-paid medical staff has made our members feel like second-class citizens in the Welsh NHS.

“We are also unhappy that the minister has indicated that these pay awards, paltry though they are, are subject to a commitment from the trade unions and professional bodies to early implementation of the Agenda for Change terms and conditions changes.

“This is something we do not accept and have never agreed.”

The ballot is likely to run through October, with action commencing some time in November.

Ms Bowden said that the issue was now the “top priority” for all health branches in Wales, as the union moved towards the ballot and delivering the action. 

“All other issues within the branch, with the exception of urgent casework, must become secondary to this, to ensure that we secure both a ‘yes’ vote and a good turnout. 

“This will be a difficult few weeks and months, and I thank everyone in advance for the effort I know they will put in to deliver both the ballot result and the action required for the benefit of our members in NHS Wales.”

Key issue: NHS pay

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