Unions want a minimum 1% pay rise for nurses from April next year and will demand a living wage for the lowest paid NHS staff.
Both unions and the NHS Employers organisation last week submitted their evidence to the NHS Pay Review Body, which decides whether to recommend a basic pay rise to ministers. It will make its final recommendations – based on evidence submitted by employers, unions and the government – to the government in time for next April.
Analysis of latest earnings data by Nursing Times shows half of all NHS nurses earned less than £31,500 over the 12 months to June 2013.
Half of all support staff, such as healthcare assistants, earned below £18,000, with the bottom 25% earning less than £14,000.
The worst paid 25% of registered nurses earned less than £26,000, while the top earning 25% received more than £36,500. Overall, nurses earned an average of £30,769 – a rise of 0.9% from 2012 and 6.7% from 2009.
However, these increases have not kept pace with the consumer price index – the inflation measure used by the government – which has risen by almost 13% since 2009. The government has indicated it expects NHS staff to receive a maximum 1% pay rise in April next year.
Unions are arguing that staff have not received a real-terms pay increase since 2006 and that 1% should be the minimum.
They said NHS staff had seen repeated below inflation pay rises that had eroded earnings in real terms by between 8-12% compared with the retail prices index, which unions say is a more realistic measure of the effect of inflation than the CPI.
Christina McAnea, joint chair of the NHS Staff Council, said: “NHS staff have seen the value of their pay fall by at least 10% over the past two years.
“The evidence is clear – supporting and investing in staff makes a real difference to patient outcomes.”
But NHS Employers is calling for a pay freeze, as occurred in 2011 and 2012, due to the “unprecedented” financial challenges faced by the NHS.
It argues that “pay drift”, where staff move through incremental pay points on Agenda for Change, has meant 55% of staff have had a pay rise of between 3.4 and 6.7%.
In its evidence to the review body, NHS Employers also said there will need to be more changes to national pay terms and conditions “to make them more financially sustainable for the future” – suggesting further attacks on Agenda for Change.
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