A deal giving the 135,000 NHS staff in Scotland three times their normal pay for working over the millennium weekend has been heralded as 'a wake-up call' for employers.

Health union MSF's head of health Roger Kline said: 'They won't be able to hold the line now.'

Northern Ireland employers have already offered a deal paying staff£170 for New Year's Eve working and£85 for 1 January, which is higher than the£150/£75 offer made elsewhere, including London and the West Midlands.

Staff working for all 28 Scottish trusts will get triple pay, plus time off in lieu for millennium working. Those on call will receive three times their normal on-call rate and a day off in lieu if called in.

North Glasgow University Hospitals trust human resources director Alan Boyter, who negotiated on behalf of the trusts, said he was pleased that an agreement had been reached 'which recognises the significance of the millennium holiday, the priority of ensuring service continuity over the period, and the commitment of NHS staff'.

Royal College of Nursing acting Scottish secretary Margaret Pullin said it was 'a fair deal for nursing staff' allowing them to choose time off in lieu, an additional payment or a combination of both'.

But the deal was opposed by Unison branch members at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, whose secretary, Tom Waterson, said he would not encourage people to volunteer to work over the period.

The threat of industrial action by Unison members over the millennium has been dropped because of the negotiations taking place in most regions and with individual trusts.

But Unison is to ballot 200,000 health staff in November on industrial action over the 3 per cent offer made to those not covered by pay review bodies. Deputy general secretary David Prentis said the decision to ballot reflected deep anger.