The Welsh Government is to implement a two-year pay deal for NHS staff in Wales despite the threat of nurse strikes in the summer.
Health minister Eluned Morgan said the government would begin the process ‘immediately’ so that staff received their payments ‘as soon as practicable’.
But the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales has pledged to press ahead with strike action on four dates in June and July unless ‘meaningful’ pay negotiations are re-opened.
The move from the government comes after, as a collective, NHS trade unions in Wales voted to accept the deal.
For 2022/23 the deal consists of a 1.5% consolidated increase and a 1.5% one-off payment – both of which have already been implemented – as well as a new and further one-off ‘recovery payment’ which, on average, equates to 3%.
Meanwhile, for 2023/24, there will be a 5% consolidated increase, with effect from April 2023. There is also a list of non-pay elements, such as career progression and the implementation of a nurse retention plan as part of the offer.
But despite the majority of unions accepting the deal, the RCN and the Society of Radiographers are opposed and remain in dispute with the government.
Helen Whyley, RCN Wales director, said she had this week written to the health minister, ‘seeking to urgently re-enter negotiations’.
She warned that ‘unless that happens, members of RCN Wales will be on the picket lines once again from next month’.
RCN Wales has planned strike action for the duration of day shifts on 6 and 7 June and 12 and 13 July.
‘The decision to take strike action is not taken lightly by us or our membership,’ said Ms Whyley.
‘Nursing staff are the largest part of the NHS workforce and they require an offer that matches their true value.’
She added: ‘The voice of nursing needs to be heard once and for all, before the profession and patient care is depleted any further.’
NHS nurses in Wales also previously took to the picket lines at the end of 2022.
RCN Wales said members would be balloted in July on whether to extend the strike action mandate for a further six months. A similar ballot is currently being conducted by the RCN in England.
In a statement this week, health minister Ms Morgan said: ‘I am pleased that, overall, union members have accepted our offer and am grateful to all our unions for working with us in social partnership.
‘I have therefore decided to implement the offer for all Welsh NHS Agenda for Change staff and Welsh Government will immediately begin the process for making the pay award so that workers receive the payments as soon as practicable.’
She also promised that work to implement the non-pay elements of the offer would begin ‘without delay’.
Ms Morgan acknowledged that two unions remained in dispute and said she recognised ‘the strength of feeling amongst members of all unions’.
‘While maintaining the collective agreement, we will continue discussions where we can in order to seek to address legitimate specific concerns and to avoid any further industrial action,’ she added.