Renewed calls for the 1% pay rise cap to be removed for all public sector staff, including nurses, have been made by healthcare unions, sparked by media reports that the police and prison officers will soon see the remuneration limit lifted.
According to the BBC, the government is set to change its policy for police and prison staff, after pay review bodies for the two groups recommended an increase above 1% over the summer, in as yet unpublished documents.
“Theresa May should bite the bullet and consign the whole policy to the scrap heap”
In response, Unison and the Royal College of Nursing both said today that the government’s entire policy, which restricts yearly public sector wage rises to 1%, should be scrapped for all workers.
Ministers were accused of being “out of step with the mood of the nation” by Unison, while the RCN again threatened a vote on industrial action “immediately”, if the government did not remove the cap for nurses by the time it set its budget in November.
Their comments come ahead of an expected debate on pay in the House of Commons on Wednesday. It also follows an RCN rally over pay in London last week, which attracted hundreds of nurses calling for the 1% cap to be removed.
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“Every sign that the government is shifting its position is welcome. But Theresa May should bite the bullet and consign the whole policy to the scrap heap,” said Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, in a statement issued today.
“Thousands of nurses demonstrating outside parliament last week left MPs in little doubt about the strength of feeling in the profession,” she said. “MPs on all sides showed support but Wednesday’s debate gives them their first opportunity to use their vote and show it isn’t empty rhetoric.
“The government is ploughing on with a policy that is driving nursing staff out of the NHS and putting patient care at risk,” she said. “If it is not scrapped in the budget or before, then industrial action goes on the table immediately.”
“No one part of the public sector is any more deserving than the rest”
Meanwhile, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said yesterday at the annual Trades Union Congress in Brighton that the government was “out of step with the mood of the nation on public sector pay”.
“There’s been speculation ministers might decide to single out a particular group of workers, rather than lift the pay cap for everyone. But no one part of the public sector is any more deserving than the rest,” said Mr Prentis.
“After seven long years of pay freezes and limits on their wages, ambulance workers, school meals staff, police and community support officers and other public service employees all deserve so much better,” he added.
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Last week there were reports of the cap being removed from 2018, but being phased in over two years due to the £4bn cost.
It has been suggested that Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss will outline the plans, when she writes to the NHS and other pay review bodies later this month with guidance on what considerations should be taken into account as they calculate next year’s salary levels.
The independent NHS Pay Review Body recommends health service remuneration levels, based on evidence received from the government, employers and unions. In recent years, it has followed government calls for the 1% cap to remain in place, but in its latest report attached warnings about continuing the policy in future.
However, last week unions also warned that the government must go further than simply ending the cap, in order to make up for seven years of a combination of pay freezes and restrictions on wages.
RCN chief Ms Davies told Nursing Times that the union would press for a nurse pay rise above inflation in forthcoming NHS wage negotiations.