Tennis champion Andy Murray slams government's one per cent NHS pay rise proposal

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Three-time grand slam tennis champion Andy Murray has spoken out against the government’s proposal of a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff, calling it ‘pathetic’.

Murray is the latest high-profile figure to join in growing calls from all sides for a substantial pay increase for health service workers who have risked their lives throughout the pandemic to save others.

Speaking after winning a match on Wednesday (June 30) against Germany’s Oscar Otte, Murray hailed the fact that NHS workers were invited to attend the Wimbledon tournament in honour of the sacrifices they’ve made during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Over the course of the tournament, Wimbledon organisers have issued hundreds of free tickets to key workers, and NHS workers who were invited to the Royal Box were given a standing ovation on the first day of the tournament on Monday (June 28).

After Wednesday’s match, Murray said, “Yeah, I mean, I think the whole country kind of realised how important they all are, and maybe hadn’t got the recognition that they probably deserve up until now.

“So, yeah, it’s fantastic that they have been able to come along and watch some of the tennis,” he added. “Hopefully they can enjoy it and, yeah, hopefully the politicians can realise that they deserve more than what they are getting paid just now.”

Commenting on the government’s pay offer, Murray said, “I think, what is it, they got something like a 1% pay rise? It was pathetic. So, yeah, they obviously deserve a lot more than that. They have done an amazing job getting us through the pandemic.”

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe hailed Murray’s comments, saying “Andy Murray has served an ace in supporting the NHS workers’ pay claim.”

Murray’s comments come as NHS workers wait for the government to publish the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB)’s report, which serves as a basis for health service pay rises each year.  

The pay review process usually happens each year in April, but the government said it would delay the process this year because of the pandemic. In March, in the government’s evidence to the PRB, the government recommended a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff – a move that drew widespread criticism.

The PRB was asked to report its findings in early May, but the deadline was missed. It is understood that the pay body has now submitted its report to new health secretary Sajid Javid but the government has yet to respond or make the report public.

 Jarrett-Thorpe explained why a substantial pay rise for NHS staff this year was so vital.

 “The NHS has an estimated 100,000 vacancies, including 40,000 nursing posts – and one way to tackle this ever-growing problem is to substantially boost the pay of NHS staff,” he said. “If the new health and social care secretary Sajid Javid is unable to obtain a lot more cash from the chief secretary to the treasury Stephen Barclay for the health service, the NHS will be a pale shadow of the great Covid-fighting health service we know and love in five years’ time.

 “NHS staff are exhausted after 16 months of tireless caring for patients during the pandemic – and many, such as Jenny McGee, the nurse who cared for Boris Johnson, have left the health service after a decade of pay austerity which has seen pay packets for many shrink by 19 per cent in real terms,” Jarrett-Thorpe added. “Unless the insulting one per cent recommendation from the government is greatly increased, this could be the last straw for many dedicated staff.”

Unite is running an on-going campaign calling for fair pay for NHS workers. You can find out more about our campaign – and how you can support it – on our campaign page here.  

By Hajera Blagg

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