Last night's branch meeting voted unanimously to recommend branch members to vote to reject the latest pay offer believing that it is completely inadequate and that the government can be pushed to offer a better settlement by further strike action.

Ballot papers are starting to arrive and members are urged to return them straight away with a vote to reject.

The meeting discussed how it was the prospect of escalating action that forced the government to ask for talks and make the slightly improved offer in the hope of silencing the anger over years of pay cuts and cuts in the NHS.

The meeting criticised the offer for falling far short of Unison's aims of 1% consolidated pay rise for 2014/2015 and an above inflation pay rise for 2015/2016, while also opening the door to government sought reforms of the Agenda for Change pay scheme as negotiations on this are part of the pay offer. 

The government has already applied for cuts in unsocial hours, and has previously indicated it wants to abolish incremental pay rises.  The introduction of incremental freeze for higher bands in the pay offer sets a precedent for future negotiations, and should be rejected.

If the offer is accepted most staff will get only 1% over 2 years, though wages have fallen behind prices by at least 10%.  The fact that no new money is being made available speaks volumes about the government’s attitude towards NHS pay - they are prepared to rob one set of NHS workers to buy the rest of us off, but won't tackle tax evasion that could raise more than enough money to fund the NHS. 

The branch meeting reflected discussions between stewards and members across Oxfordshire trusts where the majority opinion expressed is that the offer does not address the issue of recent pay cuts and low pay, and opens the door to further cuts.

A delegate to the Women's and also the Black Members conference reported wide spread dissatisfaction on the conference floors at Unison Head of Health Christine MCAnea's announcement that the offer was "the best that could be got through negotiations".  Our delegate reported that members could not understand why the action had been called off for such a poor offer when there was growing support for the strikes.

Even those set to benefit most from the pay offer have expressed the opinion that the deal should be rejected as "pathetic".  Press headlines have focused on the lowest paid getting 5%; however this would apply to just 3,000 staff in England.

As the general election approaches the government is increasingly vulnerable to pressure.  The last thing it wants is disruption drawing attention to the scale of dissatisfaction with the state of NHS pay and crisis in the NHS. We have the best opportunity in years to win real changes - a strong vote to reject is essential to making the most of this opportunity.