Unite, the country’s largest union, opened voting for its 10,000 members who work in the NHS today on the three-year pay deal that was unveiled in March.
The union’s national health committee recommended acceptance of the deal, which they called a ‘significant recognition’ that NHS deserve high pay.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: ‘We are urging our members to turn out to vote in big numbers to accept the package that was hammered out after some tough negotiations.
‘Unite welcomes many aspects of this deal. However, we regard this as the start, not the end, of the journey for true pay justice for NHS staff, which we will continue to campaign for with energy in the coming months and years.
‘After eight years of pay austerity, this package is a significant recognition that the harsh pay regime imposed on hard working and dedicated NHS staff could no longer be sustained.
‘It should be stressed that this is a fully-funded deal ie “new” money, so it is not finance that is being taken away or diverted from cash-strapped NHS services. This is something, we believe, the government should have done a long time ago.
‘We especially welcome the boost for the lowest paid in the NHS. It is right to strongly focus on addressing the issues of those who are paid the least, but who have struggled the most to cope with the savage impact of austerity.
‘In the first year of the three year deal, just over half of staff (those who are at the top of their pay band currently) will see an increase of 3%. Over the three years of the deal, this will have a cumulative value for them of 6.5%.
‘For the staff progressing their career, the new career progression framework will mean they will see increases in excess of this figure.
‘This is underpinned by increased starting rates for all new joiners to the NHS – at all grades.
‘We hope that this package heralds a new realistic pay dawn for NHS staff and goes some way to meet the ‘recruitment and retention’ crisis in the health service.
‘This pay package is England only at present. Funding for pay in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has been promised, subject to the decision of union members on the package in England.
‘Unite’s national health committee discussed the deal and agreed to put it out for the members to decide, with the recommendation to accept.
‘The work of Unite in recent weeks has been to inform and consult our membership on the package, and to answer their many and varied questions about what it means for them, and for the NHS,’ Ms Carpenter said.
Unite’s ballot will remain open until 5 June.