NHS unions have officially ended their pay dispute with the government by accepting a 1 per cent pay rise and committing to future talks on reform of Agenda for Change.
At a meeting of the NHS Staff Council today the main non-medical unions voted to end the dispute, which included two four hour strikes last year.
It will bring to an end the threat of further industrial action ahead of the general election and allows both the unions and the government to claim some victory.
The government proposed a consolidated, or pensionable, 1 per cent pay rise for all staff up to band 8B on the Agenda for Change pay framework. It will replace the 1 per cent non-consolidated pay rise in 2014-15, which will come to an end on 31 March.
The deal, covering 1.1 million NHS staff, also includes an additional £200 consolidated payment for lower paid staff on pay points 3-8 within bands 1 and 2. The bottom pay point will be scrapped and pay point 2 raised to £15,100.
But the government says the agreement will not increase the pay bill after it succeeded in getting unions to agree to an increment freeze for staff earning more than £40,558 from next month.
Unions also agreed to hold talks over a possible cap on redundancy payments to staff leaving the NHS from April, with a proposed cap of £160,000.
The staff unions have also made a commitment to further talks on Agenda for Change, with the implementation of changes from April 2016. The government and NHS Employers have made clear that reducing unsocial hours pay for NHS staff is a priority.
While the largest unions backed the deal, Managers in Partnership, which has 6,000 members, last week voted by 92 per cent to reject what it called a “divisive” proposal.
The Royal College of Nursing said 60 per cent of its members that voted were in favour of the deal. Sixty-seven per cent of Unison members also voted in favour.
Unison’s head of health and chair of the staff side council Christina McAnea said: “By ignoring the recommendations of the NHS Pay Review Body for England, the government forced health workers to take strike action over pay for the first time in 34 years.
“We are calling on any government elected in May to develop a pay strategy that rewards health workers fairly for the demanding jobs they do, and ensures the NHS can continue to recruit and retain a high quality workforce.
“The current state of pay in the NHS means many workers rely on unsocial hours payments to make ends meet. We know this government wants to cut these.”
Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “This will be a huge relief for NHS organisations and for the thousands of patients and staff who were disrupted by industrial action.
“Employers do understand the anxieties of staff and urgently want to discuss sustainable ways to move away from pay restraint. This end to industrial action means we are now in a position to start those crucial discussions. Any solution will need to support better, safer and more responsive services to patients and more efficient use of NHS resources.”