13 Mar 2014

NHS workers threaten action as government refuses pay rise

Health workers accuse the government of “taking a scalpel” to their pay after refusing to give an across the board wage rise to all members of staff.

The government’s move means health workers are now face their fourth year of below-inflation increases – sparking anger and warnings of industrial action.

A pay increase of one per cent will be given to members of the armed forces, doctors, dentists, senior civil servants, prison officers, judiciary and some NHS staff.

However, an estimated 600,000 health workers will only receive their normal incremental pay rise but not the one per cent recommended by a pay review body.

In addition to this 400 senior NHS managers will not receive the increase.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said: “We need to continue with public sector pay restraint in order to put the nation’s finances back on a sustainable footing.”

“We are delivering on our commitment to a 1 per cent pay rise for all except some of the most senior public sector workers.”

When is a pay rise not a pay rise?

Many NHS staff will see their pay increase automatically with each extra year of service to reflect increased skill levels. It is argued that such a pay system is self-regulating because workers rising up the pay scale are offset by higher-paid senior staff retiring.

However the pay increase called for by the pay review body would be in addition to this, and is intended to reflect the rise in the cost of living.

Unison said the coalition are taking a scalpel to the pay review report and of “showing contempt” for NHS workers – adding that 70 per cent of nurses will not receive a pay rise this year.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has signalled his intention to abolish the progression pay system in the NHS: “The whole progression pay system is mad.

“Someone on £50,000 salary will get a 4.7 per cent progression pay rise while someone on a £14,000 salary would only get a 2.5 per cent progression pay rise.”

The government claims their pay policy in the NHS will save £200m in 2014/15 and over £400m in 2015/16, which it said would be reinvested into the health service.

Industrial action

Unite said they will consult their 100,000 NHS members on industrial action, while Unison and the GMB have refused to rule out similar moves.

Unison’s national officer Christina McAnea said: “The Government has shown complete contempt for the NHS, contempt for staff and contempt for patients and will pay the price at the ballot box.

“Staff are on average, 10 per cent worse off than when the coalition came to power.”

The Government has shown complete contempt for the NHS, contempt for staff and contempt for patients
Christina McAnea

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady, claimed: “It is ‘national destroy public sector morale day’ today as the Government announces a further cut in the living standards of public sector workers, despite the economic recovery.

“NHS staff have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment, at a time when they are already facing a funding crisis, staff cuts, privatisation and top-down restructuring.

Speaking during his trip to Israel Prime Minister David Cameron said: “NHS staff are worth a 1 per cent pay rise and everyone in the NHS will get at least a 1% pay rise, either through the 1 per cent raise or through the progression payments that they otherwise receive.”

“It is good that it is increasing and not frozen but it is right to take those difficult decisions because it means we can keep more people employed, we can keep more people in work and make sure we spend money on vital treatments, on hospitals, on delivering services, which is what patients so badly want.”

Jon Skewes, the director for policy at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “This amounts to a pay cut.”

“It is yet another body-blow to NHS staff facing rising pressures and working ever harder without any reward.

‘Talk not strike’

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that Mr Cameron would oppose any industrial action in the NHS which disrupted services to the public and urged the unions to “talk not strike”.

The Scottish government said NHS staff in Scotland would receive a 1 per cent pay uplift from April, while staff earning under £21,000 will also receive an additional sum to increase their pay by £300 in total.

The changes would be implemented after the Scottish Government accepted the pay review body’s recommendations.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “I was clear when Jeremy Hunt first suggested reneging on the 1 per cent pay offer for NHS staff in England that we would block that move here and that we would fully implement the modest increase in Scotland.”