24 Nov 2014

NHS staff: struggling to make ends meet

​​The sun was out (a change from last month’s strike when it tipped down with rain) and so were the workers.  There were about 150 of them on the picket line outside the Royal Sussex hospital in Brighton.

For four hours, from 7am to 11am, they protested against the government’s refusal to accept the pay review body recommendation that all NHS staff should receive a 1 per cent pay rise.

In Sussex, the union reps make the point that staff are struggling to make ends meet because the rents and the cost of housing in Brighton are high (though there is no London weighting).

We talked to Sara Cumming, a 33-year-old midwife, who earns £26,000 a year and will get no incremental pay rise because she is at the bottom of her band but has only just got there, and she won’t get the 1 per cent because she is not at the top of her band.  Make of that what you will.

She shares a mortgage with her partner although some weeks she has to pay the lot if his business hasn’t done so well.  So on a good month her outgoings are £1,000 on a bad month they are £1,500.

Sara told me she has made a conscious decision not to buy a car and to walk to work because otherwise she would have to take two buses and that would be too expensive.  Sometimes she is able to borrow a neighbour’s bike.

Then there was Katherine Perry, 35, a healthcare assistant, on band three, so earning £18,500 a year.  She will get the 1 per cent pay rise, although, as she says, 1 per cent of not much is still not much.

She is the main breadwinner with two children.  There is nothing left over at the end of the month.

Still, the government and the unions have not made it back to the negotiating table.  And the spectre is rising now of more industrial action in the new year.

Last month nine unions went out, today 11 and by January that could rise to 13.  Discussions are on going.  So far the strikes have been carefully calibrated.  The four hours means there is not massive disruption but the point is made.

But the unions have discussed and will discuss again whether it should be an all day strike which fundamentally changes the nature of the game.  If that happens, they say, it will be the government to blame for affecting NHS services.

The government maintains that the NHS cannot afford a 1 per cent pay rise.  Last month they said that would be the equivalent of 14,000 newly qualified nursing posts.  Today, they said it was equal to 10,000 general NHS staff posts.

Apparently, it means the same thing, it is just a different way of painting the same picture.

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5 reader comments

  1. Mark Sargent says:

    The government may claim they cannot afford a 1% pay rise …. but can they afford not to.

    The Trust that operates the RSCH in Brighton is Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH). In the national annual staff survey last year 50% of BSUH staff reported they do up to 5hrs unpaid work above their contract every week. An additional 7% reported doing between 6 and 10 hours unpaid extra per week. And a further 3% do 11 hours or more unpaid additional work per week. Taking the average basic wage of the NHS and the additional hours being towards the bottom end of each group it can be surmised that BSUH gets a massive £171,000 worth of free labour from its staff per week, or just short of £9 million per year !!!!!!!!!! When you consider that a 1% pay rise across the board would add £2.2 million to the annual pay bill it stands to reason that if as a result of not paying 1% the Trust loses the “goodwill” work its staff does, the governments position could be much more costly in the long run.

  2. CWH says:

    I believe NHS (Scotland) has paid the 1% increase in full. Northern Ireland has apparently still to make a decision.

  3. Dick Conway says:

    So the independant review body recommends 1% for the public sector, which the government will not implement. The independant review body recommends and 11% increment for MP’s, which is implemented. Something very wrong here.

  4. Ben Hall says:

    During October, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust spent £500,000 on private nursing agency staff while operating an overtime ban on its own nursing staff. This still left 11,725 reported hours of qualified nurse and midwife shifts unfilled. Make of that what you will.

  5. Angela says:

    The link to the pay offer as officially explained by the NHS is here.

    I could not find the actual pay scales on the official site, so here is a link to them from the RCN website

    Points to notice are that the one percent pay rise is NOT “consolidated” so pensions will be calculated on the basis of 2013/14 salary – a loss of 1% of pension. Also the Healthcare Assistant earning “£18,500” must have had at least 5 years experience in that band, as she would have started on the £16,271 level.

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