Nicola Sturgeon has said she is “absolutely committed” to securing a new pay deal for NHS staff.
It comes after Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard pressed her at First Minister’s Questions for a “fair” deal for healthcare workers.
The Unison union staged a demonstration outside Holyrood on Thursday as part of its “pay up now” campaign, saying staff had incurred extra costs as a result of pandemic.
Union officials say they are moving to a consultative ballot on industrial action after failing to see progress from the Scottish Government.
Mr Leonard, who spoke at the rally, told the First Minister: “NHS workers are demonstrating outside Parliament today for fair pay.
“They deserve more than the First Minister’s gratitude and applause.”
He added: “Your Government is only prepared to talk about pay when it is tied to reforms, to cuts to other terms and conditions of employment.
“That is the Cabinet Secretary for Health’s view, that pay and reform go hand in hand.
“Is that the First Minister’s view? Or will you deliver fair pay for our NHS workers?”
Ms Sturgeon replied: “We are absolutely committed to delivering a fair pay deal for staff in the next financial year.
“And fairness in this context will mean something different to what it did pre-Covid.”
The First Minister said negotiations with unions had been taking place frequently, most recently on Monday.
Ms Sturgeon added: “Of course NHS Scotland staff going into Covid were and remain the best paid anywhere in the United Kingdom, rightly so.
“But we all recognise and I particularly recognise the debt of gratitude we owe people in the NHS and social care.”
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