Welsh Government tables offer to healthcare workers to avert further strike action
The Welsh Government has offered healthcare workers a one-off payment as part of a bid to avoid more strike action.
First Minister Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales the offer was part of a package of measures the Welsh Government put to trade unions in a letter on Friday.
The move followed the announcement that Welsh Ambulance Service workers will stage further walkouts on January 19 and 23.
Doctors in Wales are also considering industrial action and members of the Royal College of Nursing have threatened further walkouts after taking part in two days of strikes in last month.
Mr Drakeford said he hoped the one-off payment, which would be paid this current financial year, and other details set out in the government’s offer, would form the basis for negotiations in the coming days.
He said the money on offer was freed up from planned spending.
“What we cannot do, we just simply do not have the money to do, is raise this year’s offer in a way that gets consolidated in people’s pay packets and goes on having to be paid for future years,” he added.
Mr Drakeford also revealed that trade unions had been invited to talks with government over the coming week.
The Royal College of Nursing had been seeking a 19% pay hike, which was dismissed as unaffordable by both the Welsh and UK governments.
However, in an interview last week, the general secretary of the RCN Pat Cullen hinted the union would be prepared to meet government negotiators halfway.
She described the demand for a 19% increase as simply a “starting point”, and said that she would put any new offer to her members.
The PA news agency reported the union could be willing to accept a pay rise of about 10%.
Doctors, consultants, GPs and nurses in Wales have been offered a pay increase of between 4% and 5.5%, while other NHS workers would get an average of 7.5%.
Responding to the news Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said: “A month ago, the Labour Welsh Government said there was no more money available to pay nurses more in this financial year. That wasn’t true it now seems.
“Labour are now saying there is no money available in the next financial year- so this will have to be a one-off payment. But that isn’t true either.
“It’s a matter of priorities. A one-off payment does not address the long-term undervaluing of our NHS workforce and does nothing to address the crisis of recruitment and retention.
“We will simply be back again to square one when next year’s pay negotiations begin in a matter of a few weeks.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS described the one off payment a “sticking plaster” that wouldn’t solve the long term problems faced by the NHS.
In a statement she said: “It is important to remember it isn’t just recent inflationary pressures, but the fact nurses have seen a fall in income over the last decade. Many nurses are now being forced to use food banks.
“With the numbers of vacancies increasing and people continuously leaving the nursing profession it is clear action needs to be taken to stem the tide.
“I do not accept the argument increasing nurses’ pay will be detrimental to front-line services because our nurses are our frontline services.
“Without a long-term approach to recruitment, retention and pay we will be back in the same situation within a few months.”
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