New 'best and final' pay offer to NHS Scotland health workers in bid to avert strike

The Scottish Government has made what it says is a “best and final offer” to NHS workers in a bid to avert a series of crippling strikes this winter.

The Government said the “record high” pay offer would be the best in the UK and would see frontline workers receive pay rises ranging from £2,205 to £2,751. For the lowest paid, it is said to represent a rise of 11.3 per cent, with an average rise of 7.5 per cent.

The £515 million package represents an extra £35 million on the previous offer which led to a series of unions including Unite, GMB and the Royal College of Nursing to vote for industrial action.

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Action by ambulance workers who were due to start a work to rule on Friday was suspended last night while the new offer was put to members. The RCN in Scotland, which had already paused announcing strikes until an offer was received, said the deal remained “disappointing” but it would consider it in the coming days.

A new pay offer has been tabledA new pay offer has been tabled
A new pay offer has been tabled

The Scottish Government said the new offer was made after negotiations between the Scottish Government and NHS unions.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We have engaged tirelessly with trade union representatives over recent weeks, leaving no stone unturned to reach an offer which responds to the key concerns of staff across the service.

“This best and final pay offer of over half a billion pounds underlines our commitment to supporting our fantastic NHS staff. A newly qualified nurse would see a pay rise of 8.7 per cent, and experienced nurses and would get uplifts of between £2,450 and £2,751.

“We are making this offer at a time of extraordinary financial challenges to the Scottish Government.

“We have made the best offer possible to get money into the pockets of hard working staff and to avoid industrial action, in what is already going to be an incredibly challenging winter. If the offer is agreed this pay uplift will also be backdated to April.

“Finally, I would urge the UK Government to get back to the negotiating table with the unions. This settlement has been shaped by the unions’ constructive approach and I hope it is backed by their members.”

While the Unite union suspended the work to rule by its members in the ambulance service, the GMB union also confirmed its members in the service would not now take planned strike action on Monday.

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However, GMB Scotland senior organiser Keir Greenaway stated: “The reality is this offer remains below inflation for the vast majority of staff.”

He added that the offer “requires our members’ consultation, given the additional monies tabled by the government”.

But Mr Greenaway said: “Whether our members believe it goes far enough to merit acceptance is another matter entirely after a decade of cuts to pay and services, and over two years on the frontline response to Covid-19.”

James O’Connell, Unite’s lead negotiator for NHS Scotland, said his union believed “the improved offer deserves to be considered by our members across the NHS”.

“We appreciate the work, on all sides, that has gone into achieving this new offer and recognise the direct involvement of the First Minister in helping to obtain an increased offer that could be put to our members for consideration,” he said.

The RCN in Scotland paused a formal announcement on strike action in Scotland while negotiations took place this week. RCN Scotland Board members will now consider the detail of the offer in the coming days before deciding the next steps.

Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland Director, said: “This revised offer still does not meet our members’ expectations, which is disappointing, but the Scottish government is saying this is their best and final offer.

“As always it is our members who will decide what happens next in relation to the pay offer. The first step in that process is for our board to review the detail of the offer. That will happen in the next few days. We will keep members informed about the board’s decision and what it means for strike action.”