'Slap in the face' NHS pay proposal

Unite considers industrial action after government’s ‘indecent proposal’ of one per cent pay rise for NHS staff

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An industrial action ballot is one of the options that Unite will be considering as it steps up its campaign for a fair and decent pay rise for NHS staff.

Unite will be liaising with other health unions as to the next steps in the pay justice campaign, as the row continues over the government’s evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body (PRB) which recommends a one per cent rise for 2021-22. The PRB is due to report in May.

The 1 per cent pay rise would be applied to all NHS staff, excluding dentists, junior doctors and GPs. The meagre pay rise would, for example, equate to only £3.50 extra each week in take-home pay for an experienced nurse, Labour highlighted.

Commenting, Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said, “Following yesterday’s ‘slap in the face’’ announcement that the government wants to peg NHS pay at one per cent for 2021-22, Unite will be considering all its options, including the holding of an industrial action ballot, as our pay campaign mounts in the coming weeks.

“We will be fully consulting our members on the next steps, given that inflation could be two per cent by the end of 2021, so what prime minister Boris Johnson is recommending is another pay cut in real terms,” he added.

“The prime minister has a short memory as it was only last spring that he was praising to the skies those NHS staff who had saved his life.

“This proposal shows an unyielding contempt by ministers for those who have done so much to care for tens of thousands of Covid-19 patients in the last year,” Jarrett-Thorpe continued. “It should not be forgotten that more than 620 health and social care staff have lost their lives to coronavirus.

“We will also be consulting the other health unions and professional bodies to coordinate and strengthen our approach to the pay campaign – mobilising public opinion will be key.

“The public is rightly outraged by a government that can spend £37bn on the flawed private sector-led ‘test and trace’ programme, but can’t find the cash for a decent pay rise for those on the NHS frontline.

“Some estimates reckon that a one per cent pay rise will be the equivalent of £3.50-a-week for the average NHS worker, which is shabby compared to how ‘friends’ of the Tory establishment have profited so greatly from the ‘fast track’ PPE contracts,” he went on to say.

“It leaves a sour taste in the mouth and insults the British public’s sense of fair play. We believe that public opinion will be key in shaming the government into changing its recommendations to the NHS Pay Review Body.

“What the government is proposing will do nothing for NHS staff morale and will have a deterrent effect on filling the estimated 80,000 -100,000 vacancies in the health service, of which about 40,000 are unfilled nurse posts – the very people that care for Covid-19 patients every hour of every day.

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak will suffer severe reputational damage if he fails to deliver the money necessary to fund a decent pay rise after a decade of austerity that has seen the pay packets of many NHS staff shrink by 19 per cent in real terms since the Tories came to power in 2010.

 “Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, will continue to make the case strongly that NHS staff deserve an immediate pay rise of £3,000-a-year or 15 per cent, whichever is greater.

“Even this figure won’t start to make up for the 19 per cent decrease in pay in real terms that many NHS workers have lost since the Tories came to power in 2010.”

Commenting when the news first broke on Thursday night (March 4) of the government’s recommendation to the Pay Review Body of a one per cent pay rise for NHS staff, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail called the move ‘callous’ and one that ‘takes no account of the public mood’.

 “During the pandemic, NHS staff were on the frontline 24/7 saving patients’ lives and caring for the dying. More than 620 NHS and social care staff lost their lives to Covid-19,” she said.

“Boris Johnson and health and social care secretary Matt Hancock were keen that we all clapped every week, but when it comes to them reflecting a nation’s deep appreciation in the form of a decent pay rise, they have been shown to be sadly lacking.

“The prime minister owes his life to dedicated NHS staff and now he has delivered an enormous slap in the face to health workers,” she added.

“The public will be incensed by this announcement as they have shown wonderful support to the NHS during this national crisis.

“The government has badly misjudged public opinion on this issue, especially given the vast sums splashed out in controversial contracts for PPE to those with close links to the Tory establishment,” Cartmail continued.

Also highlighting that Unite will continue to push for a 15 per cent or £3000 pay rise, whichever is greater, she reiterated the fact that even this pay rise won’t make up for the decade of real-terms pay cuts NHS workers have faced.

“Tonight is one of shame for this morally bankrupt government,” she said.

By Shaun Noble

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