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More than a dozen health unions accept British government's pay offer

More than one million National Health Service (NHS) staffers in England on Tuesday, including ambulance workers, nurses, physiotherapists, and porters, will get a 5% pay hike after a deal was endorsed by more than a dozen health unions. 

A minimum one-time payment of £1,655 (nearly $2,000) will also be made.

The agreement was finalized during a meeting between the government and the 14 health unions, with the government asserting that now it is time to bring the strikes to an end.

The UK health secretary, Steve Barclay, confirmed that the government will implement the pay deal for all NHS staff under the agenda for change framework.

He also said that he hoped members of unions opposed to the deal such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and Unite would recognize this was a "fair outcome" and cancel further strikes.

"I’m pleased the NHS staff council has voted to accept our pay offer, demonstrating that a majority of NHS staff agree this is a fair and reasonable deal," he said in a statement.

Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, the largest health union, said: "NHS workers will now want the pay rise they’ve voted to accept. The hope is that the one-off payment and salary increase will be in June’s pay packets."  

Nurses may hold out

Pat Cullen, the RCN’s general secretary, on the other hand, said, it is still planning to ballot nurses on further strike action.

In a letter to Barclay, Cullen said: "I entirely respect those, in our membership and that of other unions, who voted to accept. However, that was not the prevailing view of nursing staff. Nursing is the largest part of the NHS workforce and they require an offer that matches their true value."

Sharon Graham, the general secretary of Unite, has also stated that her union would intensify its strike action and that the vote is not binding on individual unions, and therefore, "it would not prevent Unite from advocating for its members' interests."

Graham added that the current pay offer would not address the significant issues of understaffing that are undermining the NHS.

"It now time for the government to reopen negotiations. The prime minister needs to stop hiding, step in and solve this dispute.” she said.

The UK's health care system has always had problems but things have taken a turn for the worse amid the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, Brexit, and a tightening cost-of-living crisis.

The government was rocked by the biggest nurse walkout in NHS history last winter after a decade of pay erosion, war-driven deterioration in the economy, and piling workloads triggered partially by Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic.

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