Chief executives in health authorities and trusts across London joined forces this week to offer staff a £150 flat-rate bonus for working on millennium eve.
But the move came as an independent survey found that the vast majority of employers were not offering incentives, and that public sector staff are already more than twice as likely as private sector staff to get a payout.
The Institute of Personnel and Development report says that a third of staff in the entertainment sector have been offered a bonus, but only 7 per cent of public and 3 per cent of all private sector workers are in line for a payout.
Where incentives are on offer, 23 per cent expect to be paid double time, and 14 per cent will get between£150 and£500. Only information technology staff are in line for big bonuses, with payments of up to six times normal rates reported.
Under the terms of the London-wide NHS offer, staff at work at midnight on 31 December would get a£150 payout on top of normal unsocial hours payments, while those working the first shift of the millennium would get£75.
But health unions immediately rejected the deal. Unison's London head of health Godfry Eastwood said: 'This apology for an offer is laughable if it was not so insulting.' The union wants payments of£500 and£250.
Mr Eastwood said he had written to London region NHS director Nigel Crisp last week asking for city-wide negotiations if national talks broke down, but had not been offered a meeting.
Meanwhile, junior doctors challenged health secretary Frank Dobson to join them at work over the millennium as part of their campaign on overtime pay and hours. BMA junior doctors' committee chair Andrew Hobart issued the invitation as he stepped up the attack on the government's refusal to agree a national deal on extra pay for millennium working.
But the IPD survey says that three out of five people plan to pass the night quietly with family and friends, and that accident and emergency departments may be quieter than at most new years.
Millennium Eve: just another quiet night in? From Melissa Compton-Edwards, IPD, IPD House, Camp Road, London SW19 4UX. Free with A4 SAE.