Top 10 Scrooge bosses of the year - the Tory government

UniteLive highlights this year's worst employers, including the Tory government for denying NHS workers a fair pay rise

Reading time: 4 min

This year throughout the festive period, UniteLive will highlight our top ten worst bosses of the year – employers so miserly and mean that they’d put Scrooge himself to shame.

On our last day of featuring Scrooge bosses, we look at the government. It is arguably the most Scrooge boss of all. That’s because it’s denying over a million NHS workers a proper pay rise despite their herculean efforts in taking care of all of us when we’re ill or injured.

As we highlighted earlier this month, a decent pay rise for our hardworking NHS staff is not just the right thing to do – but it is in fact eminently affordable.

This Tory government, however, has so far refused to even come to the table to negotiate a fair pay offer amid unprecedented NHS strike action taken by nurses and paramedics, including Unite members, in December, with more NHS strikes planned in January.

Polling shows public opinion is strongly on the side of the striking NHS workers, and even some Tories have broken ranks and called on the government to rethink. Former Tory party chairman Sir Jake Berry, for example, told the Radio Times, “It is time for pragmatism and talking between the government and the unions. I don’t see why that is controversial.”

But health minister Steven Barclay has repeatedly said he will refuse to discuss pay with health unions, while prime minister Rishi Sunak likewise signalled that talks on pay were off the table.

Instead, Tory leaders have hidden behind the NHS pay review body, which they claim is independent but is anything but – its members are appointed by the government and its remit, including parameters on pay, is set by the government.  

Commenting on the government’s refusal to negotiate, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “In all my 25 years of negotiating deals with employers, I have never seen such an abdication of responsibility as that by the prime minister Rishi Sunak. It is well beyond time for him to intervene and break the deadlock in the NHS dispute.”

The government has taken their intransigence to dizzying heights – their refusal to negotiate has also been coupled with a desperate campaign of misinformation about striking workers.

For one, the government has misled the public about emergency cover during the strikes, with Sharon Graham noting, “Frankly, at best, the government is misleading the public on this, and at worst deliberately scaremongering. The idea that patients are at risk all of a sudden because of strikes is ludicrous. The horrendous staff shortage in the NHS mean that patients can be at risk every day.”

And in one of the most shocking statements of all amid the dispute, earlier this month, Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi suggested that striking health workers were allies of Putin.

Graham slammed his comments, noting, “Nadhim Zahawi’s allegation that Britain’s nurses, ambulance drivers and teachers are allies of Vladimir Putin is as ridiculous as it is disgraceful.

“Rather than running down our NHS in an act of catastrophic self-harm and threatening to bring in the military, the minister should instead ask himself why health staff are leaving in droves.”

We hope you found our series of top ten Scrooge bosses informative. While each of the employers we’ve featured has acted atrociously toward our members, like Scrooge himself, no one is beyond redemption. As ever, Unite is always willing to come to the table and negotiate with employers who are acting in good faith. It’s never too late to do the right thing!

By UniteLive team