Maybe it’s the heat, the shock of not doing so well at the general election or perhaps a recognition of the selfless bravery and commitment shown by public sector workers responding to recent tragic events. But whatever the reason, suddenly there seems to be a government appetite for scrapping the public sector pay cap.
NHS Confederation chair Sir Stephen Dorrell mentioned pay in his opening remarks at Confed last week, and was later followed on stage by health secretary Jeremy Hunt who also alluded to the fact that the government understands the 1% pay cap cannot last forever.
Now the longest-serving health secretary, Mr Hunt also mentioned in his speech a possible reason for his longevity. He said it was because he does not read social media.
Well perhaps he should have been taking more interest in social media. If he had he might have recognised some time ago just how much hardship this seven-year pay cap has caused to the staff working flat out to prop up the ailing NHS. And then he might have pressured Ms May and the chancellor to act sooner to alleviate their financial distress.
“Nurses cannot live on gratitude and platitudes alone”
Mr Hunt peppered his speech with gratitude for the ambulance workers, paramedics, nurses and others treating people injured in the terror attacks and Grenfell Tower fire. He also made sure that he mentioned not just those involved in the immediate heroic rescue, but the staff who will provide long-term support people to people affected by these tragedies, such as the mental health services and bereavement nurses at Salford Royal Foundation Trust.
Mr Hunt is right to call out for applause for those who have run towards danger, helped patients and saved lives. He is equally right to recognise the excellent work being done by those in the aftermath of these traumatic events.
But nurses and other public sector workers cannot live on gratitude and platitudes alone. If he truly values what these people do every day – not just when they are in the news – then he must pay them appropriately. This year, more than any other, has shown how much we depend on our public services. Police, firefighters and healthcare staff have rallied despite the fact that their resources have been cut to the bone by the government and their pay has shrunk by 14% since 2010.
“Police, firefighters and healthcare staff have rallied despite cuts”
Well enough is enough. It is right that we thank those who have and do give up so much for so many. But nothing quite says thank you like a decent pay cheque. I am hopeful that Ms May and Mr Hunt may finally have realised that.