Nurses and other NHS staff are “right to feel angry” over yet another 1% pay rise, according to the leader of Unison, who described it as “an insult”.
Speaking at the union’s annual health conference today, general secretary Dave Prentis noted that “yet again this year you’ve been offered a so-called pay rise of 1%”.
“When you give 100%, you should never receive just 1% in return”
“Yet again public service champions – health heroes like all of you – have been let down,” he told the event.
“When inflation is on the rise, when the food costs more at the supermarket, when the prices are going up at the petrol pump, when your latest gas bill is due, 1% isn’t a pay rise it’s a pay cut,” he said.
“Worse than that – it’s an insult,” he said. “You go above and beyond caring for patients and keeping the health service running, so when you’re treated like this it’s right to feel angry.”
Mr Prentis added that NHS staff should not be made to feel like they were “being taken for granted”, noting that their jobs could be “stressful and dangerous”.
“When you give 100%, you should never receive just 1% in return, especially not at a time when MPs are receiving inflation busting pay rises,” he said, in relation to the 1.4% rise given to politicians.
“Instead, those pay rises should have gone to all of you who put yourselves on the line and in harm’s way every day in order to save lives, put lives back together and bring life into this world,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Royal College of Nursing is currently consulting its members on how to react to the government’s latest round of pay restraint.
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The RCN council voted on 5 April to ask members about the impact of pay restraint and how the college should respond, including whether members should consider taking industrial action.
Although the consultation will not impact on this year’s pay rise, which has already been accepted by ministers, it represents an attempt to put the government under pressure ahead of next year.
The results are due to be revealed at the RCN’s annual congress in May and could potentially pave the way for a formal ballot asking members if they want to take some form of industrial action.
“One per cent isn’t a pay rise it’s a pay cut. Worse than that – it’s an insult”
Last month, the separate governments of England, Scotland and Wales all accepted the 1% pay rise recommended by the NHS Pay Review Body for staff on the Agenda for Change contract – though Scotland and Wales also announced extras for the lowest paid staff.
Northern Ireland currently has no government so no announcement on pay has yet been made.
Under the current process, unions, NHS Employers and the government all submit evidence on their preferred level of pay increase to the independent pay review body, which then considers the various arguments and issues an overall recommendation.
It is the fourth year in a row that a 1% pay rise has been requested by the government, as part of a long-term strategy of remuneration restraint in the wake of severe pressure on NHS finances.
However, a growing number of influential voices have joined nurses and their unions in denouncing the continuation in future of such low pay rises that fall below the current level of inflation and are, therefore, often described as a “virtual pay cut” by campaigners.
The pay review body itself voiced concerns about the long-term use of pay restraint in its report to ministers this year, as did peers recently in a major report on the sustainability of the NHS, which warned that it was damaging morale and the ability of trusts to recruit nurses and other staff.