A long-running dispute between the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the government in Wales over NHS pay and working conditions has come to an end.
The announcement from RCN Wales comes after a small majority of voting members chose to accept a fresh offer, which focused on non-pay elements, from the Welsh Government.
Some 52% of members who voted in a consultative ballot accepted the deal, which included new measures around career progression and flexible working.
This acceptance means that RCN members in Wales are no longer in dispute with the Welsh Government regarding the pay awards for 2022/23 and 2023/24.
RCN Wales said it was now set to focus on 2024/25 pay, as well as working to implement the ‘non-pay’ elements agreed ‘as quickly as possible’.
This latest package from the government followed the threat of further strike action by NHS nurses in Wales after ministers implemented a two-year pay deal that RCN Wales members had rejected.
The Welsh Government and health unions, including the RCN, have been back and forth for more than a year as part of this pay dispute, and in a historic moment for the college, nurses in Wales had taken to the picket lines late last year.
Following several new and improved offers, NHS nurses in Wales were given a 1.5% consolidated pay increase and a 1.5% non-consolidated uplift, as well as a further one-off payment averaging 3%, for 2022/23. Meanwhile, a 5% consolidated increase for 2023/24 was also awarded.
As part of the new elements now agreed by the union following its most recent ballot, the Welsh Government committed to ensuring nurses are paid properly for any additional hours they work and for an improved approach to advanced rostering.
The Welsh Government had also made pledges on flexible working, a review of national role profiles and to develop national guidance on the use of recruitment and retention premia, among other promises.
RCN Wales Director, Helen Whyley, said: ‘Our members made the incredibly difficult decision to go on strike, a situation that nurses across Wales never imagined that they would find themselves in.
‘But their collective resolve and bravery to stand up for their patients and the future of the NHS led to repeated improved offers from the Welsh Government.’
She added: ‘As a result of these improvements, the ballot outcome indicates that our members’ perseverance has paid off and they feel this offer goes some way to improving working conditions and the safety of patients.
‘Nurses are very clear with me that this result is only one small step in the right direction, and it must be built on in the pay awards to come.’
Ms Whyley pledged that the union would be ‘holding the Welsh Government to account to implement their commitment of pay restoration to make up for years of pay freezes and to implement the improvements in this deal for better working conditions for nurses.’
‘The Welsh Government must now deliver on its promises.’
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘We welcome the acceptance of this offer by union members and the ending of this dispute.
‘We understand the strength of feeling among NHS staff as a whole and will continue to work in close social partnership with our health unions and NHS employers to address staff concerns.’