Welsh government pay talks leave healthcare workers bitterly disappointed

UNISON’s Hugh McDyer. Photo credit: Natasha Hirst

Healthcare workers are bitterly disappointed the Welsh government has refused to significantly boost their pay award in crisis talks with their trade unions.

That’s according to the biggest union representing NHS staff, UNISON.

UNISON Cymru Wales’ health committee is likely to reaffirm its decision to ballot for industrial action when it meets next week now talks have failed to make a breakthrough.

UNISON led a delegation of health unions for urgent discussions with Health minister Eluned Morgan, after 90 per cent of the nurses, healthcare assistants, ambulance workers, hospital porters, cleaners, cooks, admin staff and more it represents, voted to oppose the imposition of a 3 per cent pay award by Welsh government.

UNISON says 3 per cent is below the rate of inflation and the union is frustrated at Welsh government’s suggestion the rise could only be boosted by a one-off, unconsolidated 1 per cent and a day’s additional annual leave.

There is further anger over Welsh government’s decision to exclude 5,400 NHS workers on the lowest pay grades from the full 3 per cent rise.

Hugh McDyer, UNISON Cymru Wales head of health, said,

“NHS employees have worked through the toughest 18 months of their lives. They put caring for people ahead of their own welfare during a deadly pandemic.

“They’ve had ten years of pay freezes or low pay awards which have squeezed living standards. Then the Welsh government says they’re imposing a pay rise below the rate of inflation. It’s no wonder NHS workers are insulted.

“The 5,400 lowest paid staff won’t even receive the full 3 per cent because Welsh government says their pay was boosted by an increase to the Foundation Living Wage. Talk about trying to divide the workforce. Working for the NHS is about delivering care as one team.

“UNISON will discuss how the pay rise can be improved with Welsh government at any time, but the minister must recognise NHS staff want to be treated with the respect they deserve. That means a significant uplift in wages for all employees. Proposing a small, one-off additional payment above the 3 per cent, makes little difference to someone’s quality of life and feels patronising.”

UNISON says this is the first time the Welsh government has introduced an NHS pay rise before speaking to health union representatives. It contrasted the minister’s decision with the more constructive approach of the Scottish government which sought union agreement over its pay offer for NHS Scotland workers.

The trade union says Welsh government’s actions fall below the social partnership working ministers promote.

UNISON argues people will leave the NHS if pay does not improve so dealing with record waiting lists is going to be more difficult.

Notes for editors

  • The UNISON Cymru Wales pay consultative exercise ran from 11 August to 17 September. UNISON health members in Wales were asked for their views on the 3% pay increase – 87.4% opposed the award imposition; 12.6% found it acceptable
  • UNISON’s evidence to the NHS pay review body had called for a wage increase of at least £2,000 for each individual health worker.
  • The pay award was due in April, but staff have been made to wait until the summer. They have endured a decade of pay freezes or low pay awards because of UK government austerity.
  • At the end of October, UNISON Cymru Wales’ health committee voted to support ongoing talks with Welsh government to try to reach agreement on improving on the 3 per cent and should the talks fail to boost the award to an acceptable offer, the committee agreed to recommend an industrial action ballot be triggered.
  • 5,400 NHS Wales employees on the lowest pay bands will not benefit from the 3 per cent uplift in full because Welsh government says they received a 2.2 per cent uplift when the Foundation Living Wage was increased earlier this year.

During the urgent talks, Welsh government has proposed:

  • A one off non-consolidated additional payment of 1 per cent for those on bands 1-5, and the F1 doctors who fall into this pay band. This payment would not be pro rata.
  • An additional day’s annual leave for all employed NHS staff.
  • To put resource behind a partnership group that looks at ‘staff welfare’ and bring together new initiatives and existing best practice.
  • Allow staff to sell back their unused annual leave from their carryover from 20/21 plus a proportion of leave from 21/22.


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer 07816 53 83 97