The Welsh Government has re-opened negotiations with the Royal College of Nursing in Wales after the union threatened strike action in response to plans to push through a pay deal approved by other health unions.
NHS nurses in Wales are set to receive an additional pay increase for 2022-3 following a collective vote of approval by other unions This comes despite members of the RCN having voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to reject the offer.
The offer, which the government has said is the maximum it can afford to fund, comprises a 1.5% consolidated annual salary increase and a 1.5% one-off payment, and is on top of the 4-5% already implemented.
Health minister Eluned Morgan said that she would begin work with the health unions to implement the offer, while acknowledging that the offer was only ‘narrowly accepted’.
She said: ‘We will continue to work together in partnership to work through the implementation of this offer, and also to begin immediate discussions on next steps including continued meaningful conversations on the nature of the pay award for 23/24 and additional non pay elements to improve the conditions and well-being for our NHS staff.’
While the Welsh Government says that talks are ongoing, the RCN has already warned that the union is prepared to announce new strike dates unless it receives a response from the Government by Tuesday 7 March.
However, today (Friday 03/03) the RCN confirmed that the Welsh Government would re-enter into discussions with RCN Wales.
Helen Whyley, RCN Director for Wales said: ‘I am pleased to announce that following our members’ votes to reject a pay award on Tuesday this week, the Welsh Government has re-opened negotiations with RCN Wales regarding pay, terms and conditions for nursing staff. Detailed negotiations are set to commence next week.
‘The Minister for Health and Social Services’ confirmed this course of action following our request for urgent re-commencement of negotiations this week. Once again, our members have sent a message that is loud, clear and strong enough to bring the Government back to the table. The Minister acknowledges the RCN’s rejection of the additional offer alongside the wider NHS Wales Trade Union Group narrow majority to accept.’
In Wales, acceptance of pay offers is approved by all health unions collectively through the Wales Partnership Forum. Different union’s decisions are weighted according to their membership numbers and a joint decision is reached.
While the RCN is one of the largest members of the Partnership Forum, Nursing in Practice understands that the vote was decided by a number of smaller unions moving to accept the Government’s proposal.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the pausing of strike action by Unite and GMB while meaningful conversations with our trade union social partners continue.’
Meanwhile, no conclusion has yet been reached in the ongoing dispute between the RCN and the Westminster Government. However, this week negotiations have now been opened up to the other health unions.
While the Government is understood to have extended the invitation to the other unions, it is not yet clear whether the unions will accept the offer to join negotiations.
Unite’s national lead officer Onay Kasab said: ‘Unite will be holding urgent talks with its reps, who have a mandate for strike action. That’s to decide whether we can take part in the pay talks on the suggested terms. However. The excessive pre-conditions are not helpful.’
Likewise, Unison maintains that other health unions will need to ‘clarify the basis on which talks can get underway through the NHS staff council’ before deciding whether to join negotiations.