NHS nurses in Wales are being asked to vote on whether to accept or reject a fresh set of commitments from the Welsh Government which aim to improve their terms and conditions.
The government has tabled a selection of new ‘non-pay’ elements which would come in addition to the already agreed two-year pay deal for NHS nurses for 2022/23 and 2023/24.
Measures include a commitment to ensure nurses are paid properly for any additional hours they work and for an improved approach to advanced rostering.
The Welsh Government has 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.
The move comes after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Wales cancelled planned strike action for this month, following a commitment from the Welsh Government to hold fresh talks on the deal.
Despite the majority of unions accepting the government’s two-year pay deal, the RCN and Society of Radiographers remain in dispute with ministers.
The deal consisted of a 1.5% consolidated increase and a 1.5% off-off payment for 2022/23, as well as a further one-off ‘recovery payment’, which on average, equated to 3%.
And for 2023/24, a 5% consolidated increase was awarded to NHS staff – taking effect from April 2023. The deal also included some non-pay elements.
RCN Wales is to launch a new ballot of members in which they can vote to accept or reject the new non-pay elements of the offer that have been put forward. The ballot is open from 31 July until 31 August.
The RCN said it was not making a recommendation on how members vote.
It added that talks with the government on non-pay elements of the deal had now concluded and that if the new offer was accepted, the current dispute would be resolved, and focus would move towards the next pay award for 2024/25.
RCN Wales Director Helen Whyley said: ‘Our members have always acted in the best interests of their profession and the safety of their patients.
‘It is their sheer determination, and the threat of further strikes, that has once again forced the Welsh Government to do better.’
Ms Whyley said the improved non-pay elements of the offer for NHS nurses ‘could have a significant impact on the working lives of our members and their ability to deliver high-quality patient care whilst maintaining their own wellbeing’.
‘While they focus on non-pay elements of nurses’ terms and conditions, several of them will result in more money in our members’ pockets,’ she added.
It was now up to members to ‘decide whether these terms go far enough to end our current dispute with the Welsh government and NHS organisations’, said Ms Whyley.
‘These latest improvements, if accepted, will pave the way for full pay restoration in the years to come and our continued work with the Welsh Government to secure the best members,’ she added.
‘The campaign will not stop here whatever the outcome. We know that to achieve fair pay and a safely staffed workforce, we need short-, medium- and long-term action from the government and we will continue to demand and secure just that.’
A Welsh Government spokesperson said it was ‘pleased’ the RCN had ‘continued to work with us in social partnership to reach a revised offer on the non-pay elements of the pay award’, and that it would now await the outcome of the ballot.