LONDON — Trade unions representing health workers in England landed on a pay deal with the government after a wave of strikes that piled pressure on the country’s health service.
Citing the soaring cost of living and long-running wage stagnation, members of key health unions have been pushing for above-inflation pay increases, and taken part in a series of strikes in recent months to hammer the point home.
In a breakthrough statement Thursday, the government said it had “completed negotiations and reached a final offer” with the NHS Staff Council, which represents health service employers and a host of unions.
“This includes additional pay for 2022/23 and a pay settlement for 2023/24,” the statement said.
“Both sides believe it represents a fair and reasonable settlement that acknowledges the dedication of NHS staff, while acknowledging the wider economic pressures currently facing the U.K.”
Strikes will be paused while unions consult their members on the deal.
Staff covered by the NHS Agenda for Change pay system — which includes most health workers barring doctors and the most senior managers — have been offered a 5 percent pay rise in 2023-2024, except the lowest-paid Band 2 staff, whose salaries will rise by just over 10 percent, an official who has been briefed on the deal told POLITICO.
For 2022-2023, NHS staff have been offered the 4 percent pay rise that was already on the table, plus a new one-off bonus worth somewhere between 3.5 percent and 8.2 percent of their annual salary.
The one-off bonus for 2022-2023 consists of two parts. The first is a payment to all affected NHS staff worth 2 percent of their individual salary. The second will divide 4 percent of the annual NHS wage bill between all those staff as a one-off “Covid recovery bonus.”
Putting both parts together, the lowest-paid staff will receive 8.2 percent of their annual salary as a one-off payment, the official said. For the highest-paid staff, it will be worth 3.5 percent.
The deal has been offered to all six NHS Staff Council unions — UNISON, GMB, Unite, the Royal Colleges of Nursing and Midwives, and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Unions are now expected to put the offers formally to their members, with all except Unite recommending that they accept. Unite is expected not to recommend a decision either way.
Talking up the deal, GMB National Secretary Rachel Harrison said the government “had gone from refusing to talk about pay to putting an extra £2.5 billion on the table for this year.”
Unions, she said, had “faced down the Department of Health and won an offer that we feel is the best that can be achieved at this stage through negotiation.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the agreement marked “a fair deal for NHS staff” which will put “disruptive strike action behind us.”
The deal includes all 1.2 million NHS Agenda for Change staff in England — nearly all NHS staff except doctors and dentists. However, it also involves the British Dental Association because the union represents a comparatively small number of dieticians. The Welsh and Scottish governments have devolved control over their health services.
Health workers aren’t alone in their bid for pay hikes. The U.K. government has been hit by industrial action from train drivers, postal workers, civil servants and teachers in recent months.
Matt Honeycombe-Foster contributed reporting.