Nurse strikes in Scotland paused again to negotiate new proposals – Nursing Times

‘Nurses have made their voice heard loud and clear’
16 January, 2023 By
Source:&nbsp PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Strike action by health unions in Scotland has once again been paused amid fresh proposals from the Scottish Government.
The latest set of government plans include accelerated negotiations on the 2023-24 pay offer and an additional one-off payment for staff.
The decision follows meetings last week between the Scottish Government and the unions currently involved in the dispute regarding NHS pay, including the Royal College of Nursing, Royal College of Midwives and the GMB.
“The Scottish government has shown a willingness to return to the negotiating table and to act to address the nursing workforce crisis”
Pat Cullen
This is the third revised offer which has been put forward to health and care staff, including nurses, in recent months.
One of the proposals from the Scottish Government is that negotiations for the 2023-24 NHS Agenda for Change pay offer will commence on an accelerated timetable, starting this week. It said it will aim to conclude these negotiations by February.
Meanwhile, there has also been a commitment to an additional payment for NHS staff, equivalent to three calendar months value of the difference between the 2022-23 and agreed 2023-24 pay offers.
The most recent pay offer from the Scottish Government, which was recently imposed on NHS staff, saw nurses given an average 7.5% pay uplift for 2022-23, equating in pay rises ranging from £2,205 to £2,751, depending on pay band.
The RCN, GMB and Royal College of Midwives all rejected the offer and currently have mandates to strike in the country. However it was accepted by some unions including Unison and Unite.
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The latest offer from the Scottish Government also commits to conducting a full review of the Agenda for Change framework in Scotland.
Additionally, the government in Scotland has agreed to match any NHS pay increase for England for 2023-24 if it is higher than that agreed in Scotland.
It has also said that it would invest “any additional consequentials” for NHS pay in England for 2022-23 in NHS pay in Scotland for 2022-23.
This means that if the government in Westminster was to commit to a pay increase for 2022-23 from new money, the Scottish Government has said that any money given to them would be put towards the 2022-23 pay round for NHS staff.
Lastly, the government has agreed that it would support NHS employers to agree an extension of their ballot mandates for strike action beyond early May if required.
The unions with a mandate for strike action have all paused announcing strike dates in the country to give these measures an opportunity to progress and to take part in negotiations for the 2023-24 pay round.
However, the RCN, RCM and GMB have said that they will call their members out to strike if they do not see an improvement.
“This has been a marathon for our members and there is still some distance to go”
Keir Greenaway
RCN chief executive and general secretary, Pat Cullen, said: “The Scottish government has shown a willingness to return to the negotiating table and to act to address the nursing workforce crisis.”
She said that the pressure from members has been key to the negotiations moving forward and that now the college needs to “see this process through in good faith”.
“Our members in Scotland are being listened to and the first minister is in no doubt that we will take strike action if the proposals being outlined do not deliver a significant improvement by the end of February,” Ms Cullen said.
Colin Poolman, RCN Scotland director, echoed these feelings. He said: “We know it is frustrating that things are not moving more quickly but things are moving.
He added: “The Scottish Government needs to do more and to take this opportunity to do the right thing, for nursing and for patients.
“These new pay negotiations must acknowledge the safety critical role of nursing.”
Meanwhile, GMB Scotland senior organiser for public services, Keir Greenaway welcomed the government’s invitations to start negotiations this week.
However, he said that the union has been clear with the health secretary Humza Yousaf that the expectation is the negotiation of a further pay offer for 2023-24 that exceeds the existing offer for 2022-23.
Mr Greenaway said: “If we move forward with pace, the reward is not only a recovery of the value lost on our members pay and conditions as a result of austerity, but an NHS Scotland that can provide better value to recruit and retain the people needed to recover our broken health service.
“This has been a marathon for our members and there is still some distance to go, but their strength has now secured more money for all staff in the year ahead and they will continue to lead on the transformative change of how we value NHS and Scottish Ambulance Service workers.”
In response to the new offer, the RCM has said it is “cautiously optimistic” that its calls for a decent pay deal can be met by the government in Scotland.
Jaki Lambert, director of Scotland at the RCM, said: “Our members have consistently told us that they feel neither seen nor valued by the Scottish Government, and the previous pay offers have done little to dissuade them of this view.
“We are grateful to the cabinet secretary that he has acknowledged this and has committed to finding a meaningful solution to this dispute.”
Ms Lambert added: “Getting to this point has been difficult, and I’m incredibly proud of our members who are prepared to stand firm for what they believe in.”
Delighted GMB, RCM & RCN who were in dispute with ScotGovt around 22/23 pay deal have agreed to pause industrial action, after constructive talks yday. We’ve collectively agreed to pace around next year’s pay deal, I have offered to meet next week to get discussions underway.
— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) January 13, 2023

Meanwhile, Mr Yousaf said it was “very welcome” that unions had once again suspended industrial action in the country.
He said: “I have always maintained that I will leave no stone unturned in order to avert industrial action in our health service, this positive way forward is a direct result of all parties continuing meaningful dialogue in a constructive an open manner.”
Mr Yousaf said his government’s tactics were in “stark contrast” to that of the UK Government, which last week introduced anti-strike legislation to parliament, which would ensure minimum service levels during industrial action across some public sector settings.
“I would urge the UK Government to follow Scotland’s example and get back round the negotiating table with trade unions and engage in meaningful discussions,” Mr Yousaf added.
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