As expected, the majority of NHS union members and trade unions in Scotland have voted in consultative ballots to accept the 4% pay offer. Members of Unison, Unite, and the smaller profession-based unions such as the RCM and CSP voted to accept. 85% of those voting in Unison, the biggest union, accepted.
GMB and RCN members rejected in line with their leaderships’ recommendations. The Scottish government quickly announced it would be implementing the deal with no further negotiation, and it looks unlikely that the rejecting unions will seriously oppose this.
Although not quite meeting the threshold of 50% turnout required for industrial action under the Trade Union Act 2016, the GMB vote of 82% with a 49% turnout shows that it is possible for a union (in this case, a smaller union in the sector) to get a legal ballot result for strike action. The RCN result, with 68.5% rejecting on a 26.9% turnout, was way below the industrial action threshold.
The NHS pay campaign in England and Wales still faces a government policy of only 1% pay rise, a wait for the Pay Review Board recommendation some time in June, and then the government verdict on that. The Scottish results show how important it is to examine our strategies, taking into account restrictions on strike action in the law. Workers’ Liberty healthworkers have organised a Zoom meeting for 19 May on “Organising to Strike for NHS Pay” to discuss these issues.