Unions demand 3.9% pay rise plus £800m for workforce

Fourteen unions representing nurses and other staff across the NHS have joined together today to demand a 3.89% pay rise alongside £800m to prop up the struggling workforce.

Groups representing the interests of NHS staff, including the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unison and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), have all signed the letter sent to government, although the BMA has notably made the decision not to sign the letter.

The call comes after NHS workers were encouraged by the news that the pay cap would be immediately removed for police officers and would be taken away for the wider public sector from next year.

“Health workers have gone without a proper pay rise for far too long,” said Sara Gorton, head of health at Unison, which has co-ordinated a joint letter from the 14 unions and royal colleges sent to chancellor Phillip Hammond.

“Their wages continue to fall behind inflation as food and fuel bills, housing and transport costs rise. NHS staff and their families need a pay award that stops the rot and starts to restore some of the earning that have been missing out on.”

Janet Davies, general secretary and chief executive of the RCN, added that it was crucial the money to pay for the rise was found by the Treasury rather than taken from the NHS budget.

“When ministers hold pay down, it drives too many nurses out of the NHS,” she explained.  

Niall Dickson, chief executive of NHS Confederation, argued that the joint letter would come as no surprise to health organisations.

“At the NHS Confederation we have made clear that we do not believe that the 1% pay cap is sustainable and that our members have mounting concern about both recruitment and retention of vital front line staff,” he stated.  

“Staff morale is also a serious issue, and while pay is by no means the only or even the critical issue, it is clearly important that those who deliver care feel valued and adequately rewarded. For many of our members workforce is now their number one challenge.”

But any attempt by the government to make the service meet the cost of any pay hike would be a disaster, Dickson warned, as the pressures on NHS organisations are unprecedented and funding is already at historically low levels.

“Current plans for funding health and care services over the next two years are already unrealistic and any further cost on the pay bill must be matched with additional funds,” he continued. “We recognise that extra money for healthcare has to come from somewhere, but we believe there would be public support for making this a priority.”    

A government spokesperson said that public sector workers, including NHS staff, do a fantastic job and that Whitehall is committed to ensuring they can continue to deliver world-class public services.

“The government will continue to ensure that the overall package is fair while also being affordable to taxpayers as a whole,” they stated. “The detail of 2018-19 pay remits for specific pay review bodies will be discussed and agreed as part of the budget process and will be set out in due course.”

Top Image:  NurPhoto SIPA USA

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