Yousaf promises NHS workers they can expect ‘significantly improved’ pay offer
Humza Yousaf said he will do everything in his power to prevent industrial action after the 5% pay increase offered by the Scottish Government was rejected.
Unison began balloting more than 50,000 health workers on strike action on Monday, recommending walkouts, while the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland opened its ballot last month.
The Royal College of Nursing will begin balloting its members in Scotland on Thursday, while Unite is also due to ask its members if they are prepared to take strike action.
Mr Yousaf said he will be talking to trade unions and hopes that strike action can be avoided.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We will be recommencing negotiations with the Agenda for Change trade unions, including those that represent the nursing staff.
“The Government came forward with a 5% pay deal which was a record high pay deal, I understand why trade unions are asking for a pay deal that is closer to inflation – because of the UK Government’s economic mismanagement inflation is through the roof.
“But equally I have to present an improved offer, I accept that, but one that is within the financial envelope, that I don’t have to take money away from cancer services or mental health services.
“I will be doing everything in my power to prevent industrial action from taking place, which includes in our next meeting with trade unions coming forward with a significantly improved pay offer for them.”
Last month, strikes by council workers were suspended after unions received a new pay offer from local authority leaders.
The offer, providing £1,900 extra for staff earning less than £39,000 per year, came after strike action by waste workers.
Asked whether a deal close to 10% could be offered to nurses, Mr Yousaf told the programme: “I think it’s fair to look at what we’ve offered other sectors, including local government, and say is that roughly where you want to get to or a similar package for other public sector workers.
“I’m not going to negotiate through the airwaves here with you but I have said to the trade unions in my conversations with them already – although I’m disappointed that their members have rejected – I accept fully that they have a mandate from their members to reject that offer and therefore they can expect a significantly improved offer when we next sit round the table, planned for next week.”
Unison Scotland’s head of health Matt McLaughlin said: “Unison members will welcome the commitment to meet and discuss the claim we submitted more than six months ago.
“They will also be keen to see if the minister’s interpretation of ‘significant’ is the same as theirs.
“However, I am sure that they will be furious that the minister thinks they can be emotionally blackmailed with a threat to cuts in cancer services and mental health provision.
“Unison members work across the NHS in every discipline and every community, they see first-hand the impact that failing governments have.
“For the Scottish Government to suggest that a pay offer might be contingent on cost to life-saving services is a very low blow.”
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