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Unison members in Wales vote to strike over pay

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Welsh NHS workers represented by Unison have voted to take strike action over pay.

Nurses, occupational therapists, porters, paramedics, medical secretaries, cooks and healthcare assistants were balloted in response to the decision by the Welsh Health minister Mark Drakeford to reject the recommendations for a one per cent pay rise.

They were instead given a one-off non-consolidated payment of £160 earlier this year.

Around 77 per cent of members balloted were prepared to take strike action and 90.4 per cent voted yes to take part in action short of strike. There were 5,715 responses to the ballot in total.

The result follows last week's industrial action in England. NHS workers staged a four-hour strike on 13 October.

Unison regional secretary in Wales Margaret Thomas said: 'Our members working in the Welsh NHS have sent a clear message that they are worth more than a miserly £160.

'Health workers have seen their pay drop by as much as 10 per cent since 2010 and yet these same workers subsidise the government every week by working thousands of hours of unpaid overtime. NHS workers in Wales have spoken loud and clear, and it is time for the Welsh government to come to the table and negotiate a fair deal with our members.'

A Welsh government spokesperson said: 'We are disappointed at this UNISON ballot result, especially as constructive pay discussions with Agenda for Change unions are ongoing.

'The reality is that by 2015-16 the Welsh Government's budget will be 10 per cent lower in real terms than it was in 2010-11 – a reduction which equates to £1.5bn less. With pay accounting for more than 60 per cent of the NHS budget we have no choice but to consider some form of pay restraint to maintain jobs and frontline services.'

Unison's health committee will discuss the result of the ballot this week and decide on a further course of action, potentially in collaboration with Unison members in England.

A spokesperson from the union Unite has said that there is optimism that a settlement will be reached. 'Currently the trade unions are in negotiations with the employers and representatives of the Welsh health and social services minister (civil servants). The negotiations are ongoing and significant progress is being made. We are optimistic that a negotiated settlement will be reached.'

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