NHS union members stage a revolt over a ‘paltry’ wage deal agreed by their leaders.
A union group called NHS Workers Say No has already sent out thousands of leaflets, held online calls and launched WhatsApp networks to convince members to reject the deal.
After months of bickering, ministers last week offered a £4bn deal to medical unions representing nurses, paramedics, health assistants and midwives in a bid to end the strikes that have paralyzed hospitals and led to the cancellation of more than 100,000 procedures this winter.
Most unions have recommended their members go for it and have suspended strikes while the vote takes place.
But the deal, which includes a one-off bonus of up to £3,800 and a 5 per cent pay rise for next year, has sparked outrage among some union members.
After weeks of behind-the-scenes bickering, the government has offered more than a million staff members a one-off bonus worth up to £3,800. They will also receive an extra 5 percent for 2023/24. But the offer was not well received by some union members. Pictured: NHS staff on a picket during a strike in January
The wage offer was the best chance to stave off more NHS strikes so far. Nearly 325,000 surgeries and appointments have been canceled due to NHS strikes this winter
Some members of the Royal College of Nursing have even launched a petition for an emergency meeting to hold a vote of no confidence in the union leadership.
They argue that the figure is both well below the level of inflation and what the unions originally went on strike for.
Activists think the vote on the government’s offer, which does not include junior doctors, will be close.
It means nurses and other professionals could go on strike again if it is rejected.
NHS Workers Say No figures unofficially refer to the campaign as ‘Vote Reject’ and plan to hold in-person lobbying events in the coming weeks.
Clinical nurse specialist and RCN member Harry Eccles is a figure behind the movement and told the Guardian“It’s an insulting offer. It’s not close to what we wanted to achieve.
“It’s the job of nurses like me to talk to our colleagues in the UK and various unions to say we should reject this.”
After several months of union action, government and union negotiators agreed that six unions would receive a one-off 2 percent salary increase and a 4 percent Covid recovery bonus for the current year, as well as a permanent 5 percent wage increase from April.
The value of the bonus for the approximately one million employees included in the deal will vary with experience, but the total pot will be worth 4 percent of total payroll.
It means most employees would receive a one-off payment of around £2,000, on top of the £1,400 consolidated pay increase already in place for 2022/23.
The government has also agreed on a range of non-pay measures, including steps to tackle violence and aggression against health workers, better support for career development and progression, and talks on how to improve NHS pay setting.
The suspension of pension discount rules introduced during the pandemic will also be made permanent and measures will be taken to ensure safer staffing in hospitals,” said the Ministry of Health and Social Care.
Union leaders called the deal a victory after months of ministers insisting they would not negotiate pay at all.
A petition circulating online among RCN members calls for a vote of no confidence in the union leadership over their involvement in the wage offer negotiated with the government
Still, many consider the agreement a failure because it falls nowhere near their initial requirements, such as the 19 pin demanded by the RCN.
On Friday, thousands of Unite, Unison, GMB and RCN members received a two-page leaflet from the union group NHS Workers Say No.
The pamphlet read: ‘Make no mistake – it was a strike that brought the unions into the chamber of government and it is a strike that will ensure full wage recovery.’
An online call was further organized on Friday and according to those who attended, hundreds of NHS staff attended – almost all of them opposed the agreed pay deal.
NHS Workers Say No was founded in 2020 to push for better pay and working conditions and now has 30,000 Twitter followers and 90,000 Facebook members.
It consists of healthcare workers with a loose connection to the main unions with RCN members, some of the most active in the group.
Senior RCN figures have already held a number of virtual meetings to try and get their point across to their members.
One was held by the RCN Director for England, Patricia Marquis.
According to reports, 20 people spoke out with only two or three members in favor of the deal.
And some RCN members are now pushing for an extraordinary meeting of members to hold a vote of no confidence in the union leadership.
According to a petition circulating online, this includes the CEO and general secretary of the RCN, Pat Cullen, and the elected leadership council.
Asked for comment on the petition, an RCN spokesperson told MailOnline that members can let the college know what they think of the pay agreement by voting on it.
“Members will vote in the ballot that will open shortly and that is the best way for them to tell the government and the College how they feel about this wage offer,” they said.
“This democratic process is extremely important to us and we are always committed to getting members to vote on the government’s final offer. All NHS staff can see what they would personally gain from the deal and vote accordingly.’
In other news about NHS pay disputes, government officials will meet with representatives from the British Medical Association this week to try to broker a deal to avoid more strikes by junior doctors.