The GMB and the Royal College of Nursing have called off planned strike action in Wales following a revised pay deal from the Welsh government, though Unite confirmed an upcoming strike by its members would go ahead despite the new offer.
GMB members in the ambulance service in Wales were due to walk out on Monday, while the RCN had two days of industrial action planned next week on Monday and Tuesday. Both unions announced this afternoon that the strikes would be suspended in light of the improved pay offer.
The Welsh government said it had offered health unions an extra 3% on top of the existing 4.5% pay increase, of which half is one-off and half consolidated. The pay offer will be backdated to April 2022.
Ministers revealed that the package also includes a number of non-pay commitments to “enhance staff wellbeing” and said negotiations on that aspect of the offer will continue next week.
The GMB announced that planned industrial action has been suspended to allow for further negotiations with the Welsh government. It revealed that Welsh ministers had confirmed that negotiations on pay for 23/24 will begin “almost immediately”.
The union’s Welsh NHS lead Nathan Holman said: “After intense negotiations, GMB has agreed to suspend strike action while further talks take place.
“We recognise that the Welsh government and Welsh ambulance have made concessions and, through social partnership, we appreciate the frank and open dialogue with them over the last few months.
“This has only been made possible because the Welsh government has been prepared to talk about pay – a lesson for those in charge on the other side of the Severn Bridge. We are a member-led union, ultimately they will decide.”
The RCN also announced it was calling off strike action in Wales following the pay offer. The union said it would put the revised offer to members within days.
Commenting on the decision, RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “If the other governments can negotiate and find more money for this year, the Prime Minister can do the same. Rishi Sunak has no place left to hide. His unwillingness to help nursing is being exposed as a personal choice, not an economic necessity.”
The union leader added: “We are making good on our commitment to cancel strikes when ministers negotiate and make pay offers to our members. First in Scotland, and now in Wales too.
“If the Prime Minister decides to leave England’s nurses as the lowest paid in the UK, he must expect this strike to continue. He can still turn things around before Monday – start talking seriously and the strikes are off.”
Unite confirmed this afternoon that its members in the ambulance service in Wales are still due to go on strike on Monday. General secretary Sharon Graham argued that it would “wholly premature” for the union to talk about any deals being done in relation to the dispute.
The union leader said: “As far as Unite is concerned negotiations are continuing. Unite will be available all weekend in the hope that a satisfactory offer can be put together to avert strikes next week. However, we are not in that place now. So, at the moment Unite’s ambulance workers will be on strike on Monday.”
UNISON, whose ambulance staff members in Wales were not due to strike on Monday, said its health committee will meet to discuss the Welsh government’s offer before putting it out to consultation with members. The union said a re-ballot of staff in the Welsh ambulance service will continue and closes on February 16th.
Commenting on the pay offer, UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “This ramps up the pressure on the Prime Minister significantly. Political leaders in Scotland and now in Wales are making the Westminster government look decidedly mean and totally out of touch.”
She added: “Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford have chosen to do more for their NHS staff this year. The Prime Minister should stop with the lame excuses and follow the lead of Holyrood and the Senedd.
“Rishi Sunak must now invite health unions in for genuine pay talks. Other UK governments have shown it’s possible to invest in the NHS workforce. It’s high time this happened in England too.”
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