Nurses strike victory for Daily Express after crusade forces new deal

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Nurses are among one million health service workers who will receive a five per cent increase in April and a one off bonus of at least £1,655 to top up this year’s salary settlement. The deal, which must now be voted by union members, follows compromise on both sides following weeks of talks.

Royal College of Nurses chief Pat Cullen has hailed Daily Express readers for their support for her members during the industrial action.

She said: “This feels like a breakthrough moment – not just for nursing but for our cherished National Health Service and everyone who relies on it.

“Thank you to Express readers for your support.

“After three months of strikes and three weeks of negotiations, we have something on offer from ministers that we believe is worth nursing staff voting to accept.

“Is it everything that nursing deserves? Absolutely not. It was never going to be. But it is clear progress that I believe our members should take and build upon.”

RCN members walked out for the first time in their history in December and staged more strikes in the following weeks in the fight for decent pay.

They were among a number of NHS workers, including ambulance workers and 999 call handlers, to take industrial action.

The government insisted it would not reopen this year’s settlement and initially refused to discuss pay.

But today Rishi Sunak visited St George’s Hospital in south London to tell staff the news of the breakthrough with health unions.

“I hope that you’ve heard the good news,” the Prime Minister told nurses on a thoracic ward.

“We’ve been working really hard at it, but we’ve managed to find a great agreement with the Royal College of Nursing and all the other unions to make sure you guys all get recognised and rewarded for the fantastic job you do for us.

“And do that in a way that works for us as well and is affordable, so we’re really pleased.”

He added: “I know you all just want to focus on that and that is why you all became nurses and everything else so that you could just help patients.

“Now you can get back to focusing on that fully, which hopefully is really good news.”

The RCN, which had originally wanted an above inflation pay rise, is one of five unions who will recommend the deal to members with only Unite refusing to do so.

Strikes will be paused while the votes are carried out.

NHS staff received an average of 4.75 per cent during the current financial year but said years of low pay rises meant they were struggling to make ends meet during the cost of living crisis.

Under the new offer, a one-off bonus will top that up, starting at £1,655 for lower paid roles such as cleaners and porters.

It rises to just over £2,400 for the most senior front-line roles such as nurse consultants.

For staff in management positions, such as directors of nursing and chief finance officers, the one-off payment is worth up to £3,789.

The original 3.5 per cent increase due in April will now rise to five per cent.

It means a newly qualified nurse will see their salary go up by more than £2,750 over two years from 2021/22 to 2023/24.

On top of that they will also receive over £1,890 in one-off payments this year.

Full negotiations with the RCN began on February 22 after two months of industrial action and other health unions representing paramedics, 999 call handlers, midwives, security guards and cleaners joined later.

Meetings have been held most days to allow detailed and intensive discussions about working conditions as well as pay.

Whitehall insiders said the negotiations had been “constructive throughout” and were carried out in “good faith”.

“There was a desire on both sides to reach a solution,” the source said.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay said the offer amounts to “a fair pay rise”.

He said: “I hugely admire the incredible work of NHS staff, including during the pandemic and the progress they have made to tackle the resulting backlog.

“This offer will give nurses, paramedics, physiotherapists and other non-medical staff a fair pay rise while protecting our commitment to halve inflation.

“We have engaged in constructive and meaningful discussions with unions and NHS Employers and I look forward to continuing our work together to make the NHS a better place to work.”

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said health leaders would “breathe a sigh of relief”.

He added: “We now await the decision of union members.”

Working conditions will also be improved with a crackdown on violence, abuse and aggression that NHS can face.

Health and Social Care Committee Chair Steve Brine said: “The news of a breakthrough pay offer to NHS workers is a good outcome for patients and staff. I hope it will provide a solid basis for pay settlements going forwards.

“For anyone who has been affected by cancelled appointments and longer waits, this has been a difficult time. Tackling the backlog is a priority for the NHS that will take all the efforts and hard work of the staff upon which our services depend.”

Ben Zaranko, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said: “This pay deal would, on the basis of the latest set of official government forecasts, see NHS pay grow slightly faster than CPI inflation and private sector pay in the coming financial year.”

Meanwhile, the British Medical Association welcomed an invitation to discuss pay and suggested a new meeting with the Government on Friday.

The BMA, whose junior doctor members were on strike this week, said negotiations should have started months ago.

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