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GMB National Update

Published 1st March 2023 by GMB EMAS

First of all, thank you to you all for your on-going efforts throughout the NHS Pay 22/23 Dispute. Whether you have personally taken industrial action, provided agreed life and limb cover, attended picket lines to show your support to your striking colleagues, sent messages of support – thank you!

You may have heard the news last week that the Government had agreed to pay talks with RCN in exchange for them calling off their dispute. GMB and other health unions have not received an invite to those meetings. GMB has been clear from the start of this dispute that only a fair offer on pay for 2022/23 would suffice to settle this dispute.

GMB is extremely disappointed that the Government are attempting to divide the workforce in this way. All workers across the NHS and Ambulance Service deserve a fair pay award that truly recognises the fundamental role you play – porters, cleaners, caterers, health care assistants, admin workers, call handlers, patient transport workers, ambulance care assistants, technicians and paramedics. There are simply too many crucial jobs undertaken across the service to name them all. But you all deserve pay justice. The remaining 13 health unions on the NHS Staff Council have now written to the Secretary of State and await his response. You can read the contents of that letter at the bottom of this update.

GMB is in regularly dialogue with the other health unions regarding this dispute – particularly so with Unison and Unite across the ambulance service. We appreciate and recognise that some of our members are keen for the unions to coordinate more nationally and I can assure you that we are in regular dialogue. Each union has to work within their own structures and meet the demands of their members and take decisions through national committees which sometimes makes the process of coordinating together difficult. However, I can assure you that we are talking. We all believe that we will only win this dispute if we stand together and we will continue to do that.

GMBs next days of action are scheduled for:

Ambulance Service

  • All ambulance services in England & Wales, excluding London, Yorkshire & North East – 6th & 20th March.
  • Yorkshire & North East – 8th & 20th March. NHS
  • Barnsley Hospital – 6th & 20th March.
  • Liverpool Women’s – 8th March.
  • Mersey Care – 6th, 13th & 17th March, and 24th April.

Further dates and types of action will be considered in the coming days.


The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP
Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
Parliamentary Office House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
24 February 2023
By email

Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing on behalf of the NHS Trade Unions, as listed below, in light of the ongoing intensive talks with the RCN on pay, terms and conditions.

We understand that you are now acting under a government mandate to negotiate directly with the RCN, and wanted to set out some concerns and considerations of this unilateral approach. We hope that articulation of these issues will make it clear why this approach is unacceptable, ill-considered and perilous.

All those unions with a mandate for action have made it clear that we would pause the strikes in return for talks with an up-front agreement that pay for 2022-23 will be improved. We have also identified that the most appropriate route for formal talks is through the NHS Staff Council structures.

The reason for proposing the Staff Council route for formal talks is not just because we favour a collective approach. We believe it would help you avoid the numerous technical challenges, capacity and implementation difficulties and industrial risks that are posed by a more selective approach, as well as to approach retention, supply and workload issues that are well-documented across the whole workforce of the health service.

The NHS Staff Council remit includes responsibility for the Agenda for Change pay system as well as the full suite of terms and conditions that are embedded in all non-medical direct employees in Annex 1 Employers in England. Aside from the pay scales (which are arrived at by decisions outside the staff council), other changes need to be collectively agreed in order to be passed on through employment contracts to individual staff members. The significant industrial and technical risks to a single-union approach are numerous but three key considerations are:

  • The Department may make commitments that cannot be delivered without the support of other parties to the collective agreement.
  • The grounds on which the RCN paused their action or settle the dispute cannot be assumed as acceptable to other unions, so money could be committed without a full assessment of whether it appropriately removes or limits the Department’s industrial risk.
  • Changes arising from the talks may be interpreted as a deliberate move away from the collective national pay and terms arrangements and be met with a unified and robust response.
  • We are very keen to understand how you plan to take the agreement you are reaching with the RCN and turn that into either an offer to all NHS TUs or union-specific deals that would be negotiated with each of us in turn.

Our clear position all along has been that using NHS Staff Council structures is the best route to resolving the current disputes on NHS pay. We are keen to understand how this option could be activated in the current context.

We do understand you are acting under a mandate outside of your department to engage on a single-union basis. However, we would like to express our deep dissatisfaction that long-standing constructive relationships between employers, policy-makers and trade unions in the NHS have been jeopardised by these moves.

We would welcome an urgent discussion to explore the possibility of putting the single- union negotiations onto a formal joint-union footing.

Yours sincerely
Sara Gorton
Staff Side Chair and Head of Health, UNISON
Elaine Sparkes
Staff Side Secretary and Assistant Director, CSP.
On behalf of the following Trade Unions:
British Association of Occupational Therapists
British Dietetic Association
British Orthoptic Society
Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
Royal College of Podiatry
Federation of Clinical Scientists

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