Medical workers including ambulance staff have formally rejected the latest pay offer from NHS Scotland.
Unite said members have voted for strike action following the conclusion of the legal industrial action ballot after knocking back the offer.
The deal, which was put to members last week, “didn’t go far enough” to reward workers fairly, Unite said, and while the principle of a flat rate offer was something that the union considered, they concluded that “some workers would be considerably worse off following the ‘improved’ offer”.
Deputy first minister John Swinney warned the Scottish Government had “nowhere else to go” in terms of offering further rises to public sector workers – despite inflation reaching a 40-year high of 12.6%.
However, Unite said that the escalation was down to “the Scottish Government failing to dig deep enough”.
Estates and equipment staff are also set to strike alongside ambulance colleagues.
The union’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, added: “We were all indebted to these workers during the pandemic yet now they are being denied a pay increase that would help them through the worst cost of living crisis in decades.”
Unite industrial officer James O’Connell said: “We said that the ‘new’ offer was simply not good enough when it was tabled and it is still not enough today. Our members have made their anger clear by overwhelmingly rejecting this offer and are now willing to take strike action.
“It surely has not gone unnoticed that the NHS is in crisis. It will be these same workers that will be required to step in to save it, but the procrastination by the Scottish government to make a realistic and fair offer is lowering morale and angering our members.”
Mr O’Connell warned that Deputy First Minister John Swinney should prepare for “unprecedented strikes” after he stated that the Scottish Government ‘have nowhere else to go’ to improve the pay offer.
Mr O’Connell added: “I would suggest that the Scottish Government look again at their sums because our members are determined and united and will fight relentlessly for a decent pay rise across the board for all workers in the NHS. Our members have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are disappointed that Unite have rejected this record pay offer and are now considering taking industrial action.
“For the lowest paid, this represents an above-inflation 11% pay rise, and it will ensure our NHS Agenda for Change staff remain the best paid in the UK.”