Strikes by health unions due to happen on 29 January and 25 February were called off on Tuesday 27 following a new offer from the government.
The unions will consult members over the next few weeks. Unison and Unite have stated strikes will be relaunched on March 13 if the offer is rejected.
The dispute was initiated by the failure of the government to implement the NHS pay review body recommendation of 1% for 2014/15. The offer for that year remains exactly the same. A pay freeze for the majority, 1% bonus (unconsolidated — i.e. disappears on 31 March) for those on the top of their pay band. No change for most.
Far from making up for this year’s pay freeze, the offer for 2015/16 is 1%, excluding those on the top band, above 8b, and an additional £200 for bands 1 and 2 (£4/week before tax). The lowest point on band 1 will be abolished.
This is essentially an offer of 1% over two years for most health workers and a slightly bigger increase for those on the lowest pay.
For health workers who have suffered years of frozen pay, this offer is derisory. It will leave those on the top of their bands with even less in their pay packets than when we started the action. In real terms the only people that will take home a penny more are on the lowest two pay points. Everyone else gets a pay cut.
Those workers on the lowest pay band need a Living Wage in the health service, not a deal that retains most of band 1, trapping the lowest paid on poverty pay.
In reality many of these low paid jobs are outsourced and are not even covered by the offer.
The offer is cost neutral to the government. The slight increases will be funded by the pay freeze for those on 8c and above and an increment freeze for all above band 7. Whilst no one will be that upset about senior management taking a hit, this sets a worrying precedent of freezing increments.
The deal includes an agreement to reform Agenda for Change. For the unions to enter into such negotiations with a government who have explicitly said they support regional pay, believe that increments are unaffordable, and have already fired the first bullet in the attack on unsocial hours payments on the back of a defeat, will be a disaster.
With the background of an imminent general election, and with overwhelming support from the public for an NHS facing crisis, we need to campaign hard against this deal.
Realistically the way to get a no vote will be with high profile rejection campaigns run by branches.
Within these campaigns we need to be talking about the sort of action we want relaunched on March 13 and how we can rebuild the unions to fight against future attacks.