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30.09.16

Government risks breaking wage laws without extra NHS funding, unions claim

The 1% pay cap for NHS workers means that the lowest-paid staff will be earning below the minimum wage as early as next year, according to 13 NHS worker trade unions.

In their submission to the NHS Pay Review Body, the unions said that capping pay increases at 1% means that pay has failed to keep pace with inflation, with workers’ median earnings falling by 12.3% in real terms between 2011 and 2016.

The unions said that wages for the lowest-paid workers – hospital porters, cleaners and healthcare assistants – will fall below the new national living wage next year in Northern Ireland, 2018 in England and Wales, and 2021 in Scotland.

Christina McAnea, chair of the NHS trade unions, said: “Agenda for Change – the NHS pay framework – has served staff well for many years, but sustained government attacks on health workers’ pay pose a threat to its future.

“Capping NHS pay at such low levels is giving hospital trusts across the country a huge headache as they struggle to hold on to experienced staff, who can earn much more working for agencies. Limits on NHS pay are also deterring many people from taking up careers in the health service.

“The government must come up with the cash to increase the pay bands of the lowest paid or it will be breaking its own wage laws. If the NHS is continue to deliver the best possible care for patients, its workforce must feel valued and motivated – and that has to start with fair pay.”

According to the unions, the government would need to dock the 1% pay rise for everyone earning above £17,000 to make up the shortfall. Instead, the submission said the Department of Health should provide £280m in central funding, and restructure the lowest three pay bands, allowing for annual pay increases.

The unions also said NHS pay scales should return to being set to UK-wide standards, instead of the present situation where NHS workers in Scotland earn more than elsewhere.

The submission called for a “comprehensive workforce strategy” to tackle the problems facing the NHS workforce.

Furthermore, it said that money from the new apprenticeship levy should be pooled and ring-fenced to the NHS, and the NHS Pay Review Body should monitor the impact of the abolition of student bursaries and the UK’s exit from the EU.

The IPPR warned recently that the NHS workforce would “collapse” if EU workers were forced to leave.

The unions represented in the submission are British Association of Occupational Therapists, British Dietetic Association, British and Irish Orthoptic Society, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, Federation of Clinical Scientists, GMB, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, Society of Radiographers, UCATT, Unison and Unite.

NHE contacted the Department of Health for comment, but at the time of publication had not received a response.

(Image c. Andrew Matthews from PA Wire)

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