Mark Drakeford defends Welsh Government’s 3% pay rise to NHS workers

Unions say the increase is not enough and is an effective cut in real terms pay. Credit: PA

The first minister has defended his government’s decision to offer a 3% pay rise to NHS workers.

In July, the Health minister announced the increase following a recommendation of the independent pay review body. It's backdated to April this year but unions say it's not enough and is an effective cut in real terms pay.

Mark Drakeford was tackled on it by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price at the weekly First Minister's Questions session in the Senedd.

Adam Price said the pay offer left healthcare staff feeling “let down, undervalued and ignored” after a year and a half of dealing with the Covid pandemic.

Adam Price has criticised the first minister. Credit: PA

He also criticised Mark Drakeford for refusing to include a higher pay rise in talks with trades unions, a position which led the nurses’ union, the RCN, to walk away from discussions.

The First Minister said he agreed that NHS staff should be paid more for their efforts.

But he said the Welsh Government only had a fixed amount of funding from the UK Government.

He said each 1% pay increase costs £50m - money which would have to come from funding for services.

"In order to fund that 3% pay increase, we have a 1% uplift from the UK Government. 

"So, the other 2% we are having to find from within the resources that are available to us for purposes other than pay. 

"Every 1% that the pay bill in the NHS rises costs £50 million. So, the Welsh Government is finding, from resources that were not sent to us for pay purposes, £100 million in order to make sure that we met the recommendations of the pay review body. 

"Do I think that that is enough? No, I don't. 

"Do I think the Welsh Government can go on finding dollops of £50 million in order to increase the pay award above and beyond what we are funded to do? The answer to that is 'no' as well."

“If more goes into pay,” he said, “there is less of it to provide a service."

The Royal College of Nurses has criticised the 3% pay increase. Credit: PA

Mark Drakeford also urged the RCN to return to negotiations which he said continue to find a “package of measures” to accompany the pay offer.

According to Adam Price, the RCN "wanted to talk to the Government about an across-the-board pay increase and you've refused to engage with them on that.

"You're not convening the pay negotiating committee of the NHS partnership forum, and yet you're supposed to be the Government of social partnership. 

The First Minister said: "The Welsh Government continues in negotiations with the major trade unions in Wales on the pay offer. 

"The RCN has chosen not to participate in those ongoing discussions. I would urge them to come back around the table, because it is only by discussion that we will be able to find a resolution."