NHS Staff are on track for a 6.5 percent pay rise over three years but must forfeit a days holiday in return.
In the coming days ministers are hoping to finalise a £3.3 billion deal to offer NHS staff a 6.5% pay rise over the next three years but with the condition that health workers forfeit a days annual leave in return.
The 6.5% rise would see the average salary for a Band 5 Staff Nurse in the UK rise from £25,653 to £27.192 over the three years - an increase of just £1539 and well below the current rate of inflation.
During the November budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced plans to review and "modernise" the Agenda for Change pay structure - 14 health unions, including The Royal College of Nursing and Unison, have been negotiating on behalf of their members since November.
A successful deal would see the first significant pay rise to NHS staff in 7 years, but at the cost of a day's annual leave. The deal is thought to be designed to help NHS trusts tackle staffing gaps through a recruitment and retention crisis. But, NHS staff survey revealed this week that 58% of staff already work additional unpaid hours.
Experts have criticised the move saying that NHS staff are already over-worked and reducing much needed annual leave would only worsen the issue.
But, government negotiators have warned that staff working one extra day a year is "non-negotiable" and if union members refuse the offer the deal could be withdrawn.
Nigel Edwards, Chief Executive of the Nuffield Trust thinktank, told the Guardian newspaper that the NHS workforce has reached its limits:
“If the government makes a proposal like that obtained by the Guardian, staff, especially those paid least, will welcome the respite from a real-term squeeze on their wages which has cost them billions. With very serious shortages of staff, government is right to conclude that an austerity approach to the NHS workforce has reached its limits.”
Adding that in effect losing a day’s leave would be a pay cut of 0.4%, despite the salary increase.
Unions have confirmed that members would be balloted over any potential deal.
The NHS Pay Review Body, the independent body that advises the government on the pay of healthcare workers, has yet to issue its report for 2018-2019.
Both major nursing unions have refuted the details of the deal initially leaked by the Guardian.
The Royal College of Nursing initially declined to comment but has since made the following statement; "The RCN has been part of pay talks alongside all NHS unions. They are on-going and have not concluded. Once there is agreement in principle - and the Treasury commits to fully fund it - our members will decide if any deal is acceptable".
UNISON's also made the following statement; "UNISON has been leading these pay talks since December and we are close to a final position which we can put to NHS staff for consideration. However, the details in the article are incomplete, unconfirmed and inaccurate in part".