Nurses vote to reject latest pay offer in Wales but jury still out for other NHS workers

The RCN previously rejected the offer in February, but overall it was narrowly accepted by unions representing other NHS workers. Credit: PA Images

Nurses in Wales have voted to strike after rejecting the latest NHS pay offer.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said members will stage walkouts between 6th and 7th June and 12th and 13th July.

Other health unions are still yet to vote and all the results will make up a collective decision which is expected to be announced on 23 May.

However, with this being the first returned vote by one of the biggest health unions in Wales, it could provide some indication on which way the collective vote might go.

Each union has a minimum of one vote, but larger unions, including the RCN, have additional votes proportionate to their membership size.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said,

"While we recognise the strength of feeling among members, we are disappointed by the ballot outcome.

"We are also disappointed by the announcement of further industrial action prior to hearing the outcome of other trade union ballots and agreeing a final collective position at the Wales Partnership Forum Business Committee."

The RCN initially rejected the offer in February, but it was narrowly accepted overall by unions representing other NHS workers and talks continued until an amended and final offer was made in April.

It comes after months of NHS strikes, with nurses, ambulance workers and other health care workers walking out over several dates between December and February.

RCN Wales Director Helen Whyley said: "Nursing staff took the momentous decision to strike for fair pay and safe staffing levels. We need a substantial offer from the Welsh government that reflects the magnitude of that decision.

"Today, we have heard our members loud and clear, and this latest decision only makes us more determined as a college to secure a meaningful and acceptable pay offer for the future of the profession.

"Nursing staff always act in the interests of their patients, and are the true ambassadors for our NHS. The government must act in their interest now, because protecting nursing protects the public.

"I have asked for pay talks to be opened immediately with the Minister for Health & Social Services so that our members do not need to return to picket lines.

"Strike action is always a last resort, but we have been pushed here yet again. If talks aren't forthcoming, we won't hesitate to strike, with stronger strike action than we've seen before."

The Welsh Government has said it is "disappointed" by the RCN's rejection of its latest pay offer.

A spokesperson added: "We are also disappointed by the announcement of further industrial action prior to hearing the outcome of other trade union ballots and agreeing a final collective position at the Wales Partnership Forum Business Committee."

The Welsh Conservatives have said it is "vital" that talks resume to prevent further strike action in June.

Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS said: "The Labour Health Minister had to be forced, by Senedd vote, to meet with the Royal College of Nurses late last year. We don't want to have to see a repeat of that this time.

"Given that Labour said that this was their 'best and final' offer, we need to hear urgently from them, their plan to resolve the dispute beyond their expression of disappointment."

What's on the table?

In February, NHS workers were offered an additional 1.5% pay rise backdated to April 2022, plus a one-off payment of 1.5% of their salaries.

Last month, the Welsh Government also offered a one-off 'NHS recovery payment' - which it said would be 3% on average.

For 2023-24 it is offering a 5% increase, and increasing the salaries of some of the lowest paid, which equates to a 7.8% increase.

If the offer is accepted, NHS staff in Wales will have received more than 15.7% (of which 11.2% is consolidated into pay permanently) over two years.

The Welsh Government has also made changes to its non-pay elements of the offer, such as around the unsocial hours allowance.

Seven unions recommended their members accept the offer, including Unison, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and the Royal College of Midwives.

Four made no recommendation - the RCN, Unite, GMB and the Federation of Clinical Scientists - and the Society of Radiographers recommended that members reject the offer.

The Health Minister has previously described negotiations as "tough" and said "hard choices have been required".

In April, Eluned Morgan MS said: "Using this money to increase pay now means we can't use it for other purposes - but we are confident that this is the right thing to do.

"I hope union members will consider carefully the full and final offer and vote to accept.

"Whilst health trade unions will be balloting members on an individual basis our aspiration from Welsh Government is that the offer is accepted by all unions so that we are able to implement the offer and end the industrial action on pay in NHS Wales."