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Dear UNISON NHS Cymru/Wales members,

The reason for this open letter is to explain how we – UNISON's Cymru/Wales
Health Committee – arrived at the decision to recommend that members vote yes
and accept the NHS pay offer from Welsh Government.

UNISON represents more than 30,000 workers in the Welsh NHS and as the biggest
union, covering a wide range of occupations and grades in every NHS employer, we
have a responsibility to take a thorough and considered approach to this offer.

Amid the cost-of-living crisis, UNISON believes that NHS workers deserve pay
increases at least in line with inflation. We know this improved offer falls short of that
aspiration for many members, however, we feel there are also balanced reasons for
accepting this deal which would settle last year’s pay and enable us to focus on your
pay for 2023/2024.

In September 2022, the Pay Review Body recommendations were imposed upon
health workers in Wales. Most saw a flat rate uplift of around £1,400 consolidated
into their pay. Unions immediately called upon Welsh Government to improve this
deal in Wales but were met with inaction.

Following ballots for industrial action, this position changed in January 2023, when
unions were invited to take part in negotiations to discuss a bespoke pay package for

Initially, Welsh Government were proposing a non-consolidated ‘one off’ payment
with no additional terms and conditions measures for NHS staff.

This was rejected by UNISON and other unions.
Significant headway was made in the negotiations that followed, underpinned by a
commitment from all sides that, whilst funding from Westminster is a significant
challenge, we could still deliver a better deal for Wales.

What followed is the offer that you have been presented to vote upon which now
includes an additional consolidated 1.5% backdated to April 2022, as well as a non-
consolidated 1.5% payment. The deal goes beyond pay itself, and now
encompasses several ‘non-pay’ elements like the reduction from 6 to 3 weeks to
receive unsocial hours enhancements on sick pay, a commitment to explore the
reduction of the working week with no loss of pay and additional measures for staff
working in the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST). Full details are included in
your ballot information which we urge you to read

Crucially this deal includes a commitment from the health minister that, should the
England dispute be resolved with an increased pay offer from the Westminster
Government, the consequential increase in funding received by Welsh Government
(as part of the Barnett Formula) would be awarded to health workers in Wales

following discussions with trades unions. This would be on top of the provisions of
the deal outlined above.

Scotland has already made an improved offer to health workers; if we also get a deal
in Wales, the pressure is then with the Westminster Government to deliver more.
Conversely, rejection of the offer would not leverage any such pressure and the
possibility of receiving any further funding for pay diminishes.
As a health committee, we also had to consider whether rejection of this offer would
result in more money from Welsh Government. It has stated that this is a full and
final offer that must be delivered in this year’s budget. The probability of UNISON
members receiving no additional settlement during a cost-of-living crisis is not a risk
we are prepared to take, and it would be irresponsible on our part to neglect the ask
of members to get something extra in their pay packet.

We understand the strength of feeling on all sides of the debate to accept or reject
the offer, which is why it is important to outline the deliberation that went into our
decision to advise you to accept. Even if accepted, we will not be letting Welsh
Government off the hook and expect them to deliver on the offers made to staff.
Additionally, we will continue to press for pay restoration and further improvements
for NHS workers in Wales.

Finally, through the efforts of our activists and members we are in a far stronger
position to begin a new campaign for 2023/24. Our industrial action ballots last winter
led to a trebling in voter turnout. We now have a far more engaged and informed
membership, and we continue to improve. The widespread dissatisfaction with the
Pay Review Body and members’ wish to negotiate pay through collective bargaining
is now a far more realistic ambition due to the increased organisation of our union.

We have been on a journey the past twelve months. We are now a stronger, more
resilient, more organised union, able to bargain from a position of strength. We have
an opportunity to finish this year's pay campaign with several victories that our
colleagues across the border do not have. We do not pretend it is everything we
asked for. But the possibility of rejecting it and leaving with nothing is too great a risk.
This is why your Health Committee recommends you accept this offer.

Yours sincerely,
UNISON Cymru/Wales Health Committee

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