Unions have welcomed a government pledge to honour the three-year pay deal for nurses but expressed concern at Tory plans for a pay freeze.
It merged on Monday that the Treasury had written to the NHS pay review body, calling for senior NHS managers and GPs to be subject to a one-year pay freeze, while hospital doctors and dentists should get no more than a 1 per cent rise.
The Treasury leak said that nurses and other public sector workers currently with multi-year pay deals would not be affected by the move.
UNISON head of health Karen Jennings said: “We are pleased that the government is honouring the three-year pay deal for our hard-working health members – many of whom are low-paid women.
“They will breathe a sigh of relief that they won’t have their pay frozen. The deal has given a decent increase for our members and established a new minimum wage of £6.77 an hour,” she added.
But the Treasury leak was followed by a speech at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, in which shadow chancellor George Osborne said there would be a pay freeze for all public sector workers – with the exception of some military personnel – form 2011.
Commenting on the Tory proposals, Royal College of Midwives director of employment relations Jon Skewes said: “A pay freeze for frontline NHS staff in short supply such as midwives, will not encourage more midwives to join the NHS. It may well cause many existing midwives to leave.”
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis added: “They are trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes by pretending they care about low-paid workers. Millions of public sector workers will be left out in the cold by this pay freeze.”
Peter Carter, head of the RCN, said: “It is premature at this stage for any party who aspires to form the next government to talk about public sector pay freezes in 2011. We face an uncertain economy but we know that we are likely to face a recruitment crisis in nursing in the future. To ensure that patient care is not compromised we need to attract and keep nurses working in the NHS.”