NHS union members are organizing a revolt over a ‘paltry’ pay deal agreed by their leaders.
A cross-union group called NHS Workers Say No has already sent out thousands of leaflets, held online calls and started WhatsApp networks to persuade members to reject the deal.
After months of wrangling, ministers last week offered a £4billion deal to medical unions representing nurses, paramedics, healthcare assistants and midwives in a bid to end the strikes that have crippled hospitals and led to the cancellation of over 100,000 procedures this winter.
Most unions have recommended their members go for it, and have paused strikes while the vote is being held.
But the deal, which includes a one-off bonus of up to £3,800 and a 5 per cent pay rise for next year, has provoked outrage among some of the union membership.
After weeks of wrangling behind the scenes, the Government has offered over one million staff a one-off bonus worth up to £3,800. They will also receive an extra 5 per cent for 2023/24. But the offer has not gone down well with some union members. Pictured above, NHS staff on the picket line in during a strike in January
The offer has so far been the best chance of averting more NHS strike action. Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics
Some members of the Royal College of Nursing have even launched a petition for an emergency meeting to hold a vote of no confidence in the union’s leadership.
They claim the figure is both far below the level of inflation and what the unions were originally striking for.
Campaigners believe the vote on the Government’s offer will be close.
It means nurses and other professionals could go back out on strike, if it is rejected.
NHS Workers Say No figures are referring to the campaign unofficially as ‘Vote Reject’ and are planning to hold in-person lobbying events over the coming weeks.
Clinical nurse specialist and RCN member Harry Eccles, is one figure behind the movement and told the Guardian: ‘It’s an insulting offer. It goes nowhere near what we set out to achieve.
‘The job for nurses like me is to speak to our colleagues across the UK, across different unions to say we need to reject this.’
After several months of industrial action, the government and union negotiators agreed on six unions to receive a one-off 2 per cent salary uplift and 4 per cent Covid recovery bonus for the current year as well as a permanent 5 per cent pay rise from April.
The value of the bonus for the some 1million staff included in the deal will vary with experience but the total pot will be worth 4 per cent of the total pay bill.
It means most staff would receive a one-off payment of around £2,000 in addition to the £1,400 consolidated pay rise already in place for 2022/23.
The Government has also agreed a series of non-pay measures, including steps to tackle violence and aggression against health staff, better support for career development and progression, and talks about how to improve the determination of NHS pay.
The suspension of pension abatement rules introduced during the pandemic will also be made permanent and measures will be introduced ‘to ensure safer staffing levels in hospitals’, the Department of Health and Social Care said.
Union leaders called the deal a victory after months of ministers insisting they would not negotiate on pay at all.
A petition being circulated online among RCN members calls for a vote of no confidence to be held in the union’s leadership over their involvement of the pay offer negotiated with the Government
Yet many see the agreement as a failure because it nowhere near meets their initial demands, like the 19 pent one demanded by the RCN.
On Friday, thousands of Unite, Unison, GMB and RCN members received a two-page leaflet from the cross-union group NHS Workers Say No.
The leaflet read: ‘Make no mistake – it was strike action that got the unions in the room with the government and it is strike action that will deliver full pay restoration.’
An online call was further organised on Friday and according to those who attend it was joined by hundreds of NHS staff – almost all were opposed to the agreed pay deal.
NHS Workers Say No was formed in 2020 to push for better payment terms and working conditions and now has 30,000 Twitter followers and 90,000 Facebook members.
It is made up of health workers with a loose affiliation from the main unions with RCN members some of the most active in the group.
Senior RCN figures have already held a number of virtual meetings to try and put their position to their members.
One of these was held by the RCN’s director for England, Patricia Marquis.
According to reports, 20 people spoke out with only two or three members in favour of the deal.
And some RCN members are now pushing for an extraordinary meeting of the membership to hold a vote of no confidence in the union’s leadership.
According to petition circulating online this includes the RCN’s chief executive and general secretary Pat Cullen, and its elected leadership council.
Asked for comment on the petition an RCN spokesperson told MailOnline members can let the college know how they feel about the pay deal by voting on it.
‘Members will vote in the ballot that opens soon and that is the best way for them to tell government and the College how they feel about this pay offer,’ they said.
‘This democratic process is extremely important to us and we always committed to giving members a vote on the government’s final offer. All NHS staff can see what they would personally gain from the deal and vote accordingly.’
In other NHS pay dispute news, Government officials are due to meet with representatives from the British Medical Association this week to try and thrash out a deal to avert more strikes from junior doctors.