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'Hunt needs to start listening to nurses'


Last week a little bit of history was made. Nurses joined other healthcare workers from Unite, Unison and the GMB to protest over the government’s refusal to award a blanket 1% pay rise, and went on strike over pay for the first time since the 1980s.

And the Royal College of Midwives went on strike for the first time in its 133-year history (see page 5).

The Nursing Times team joined staff on the picket lines to find out exactly why they had decided to take action. We visited 10 organisations: seven across the capital, and three in Nottinghamshire and Cambridgeshire.

One midwife from The Rosie Maternity Hospital in Cambridge told me: “We are not asking for the moon on a stick. We just want what is fair, and what an independent body has recommended - 1%. It’s not much.” Another colleague agreed, stating the rise in Nursing and Midwifery Council fees and car parking fees alone were making it more expensive to do her job, and this was without taking into consideration cost of living rises.

At every picket line, we asked what the strikers’ message for the health secretary Jeremy Hunt was.

It was, they said unanimously, to listen to them. But it seemed Mr Hunt was not listening. While the chants of “What do we want? Fair Pay. When do we want it? Now” were taking place, he was trying to drown out the noise by making a statement about the risks of ebola for the breakfast news bulletins. He was not listening. Instead of being set to receive, he was adjusted only to transmit.

But fortunately later on that morning, some of the media did ask him directly about pay. His answer was that the government could not afford to pay more because it would cost nurses’ jobs.

The government has choices to make about how it spends taxpayers’ money, and it is choosing not to spend it on paying nurses a fair wage. But can Mr Hunt really afford not to pay nurses more? Can he afford a winter of discontent with more industrial action? While the numbers on the picket lines weren’t huge, the public sympathy for care givers was showing no sign of waning. Car horns tooted to show their solidarity, and at one trust in London, a passerby tried to press a £20 note into the hands of striking midwives.

Nurses and the public believe that health workers deserve a fair wage and are prepared to fight for it, and if the government wants to win the election, Mr Hunt had better start listening soon.

Jenni Middleton, editor Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed


Readers' comments (6)

  • Why don't you run a story on this Jenni is the Nursing Times part of the problem too...
    Anyone interested in what the RCN pays a....any wonder they don't want change......

    Dr Peter Carter, the head of the Royal College of Nursing has seen his pay package rise from £66,869 to £109,000.

    Dr Carter's gross salary rose from £59,540 to £97,000, while his employer’s national insurance contribution rose from £7,329 to £12,000. Nurses pay rose by just 1 per cent in April after two years of pay freezes.

    The Royal College of Nursing said his pay has not risen because he was previously paid separately for professional and charitable duties. That pay is now declared in the trade union accounts.

    A spokeswoman said: "“Dr Peter Carter has not received a salary increase for over 3 years, nor does he receive any non-salary allowances from the RCN. In 2011 we agreed a different allocation of Dr Carter’s salary with the Trade Union Certification Officer following a change in the RCN’s legal structure.”

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  • hunt doesn't give a damn about nurses, he just seeks to keep bashing us

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  • Agree with 23/10/14 4.01pm.
    The biggest slimeball is Hunt and his millionaire cronies in government, who will get a HUGE increase in their salary/allowances, set by an 'independent board.' The 1% rise for NHS staff was also advised by an 'independent board.'

    we had to strike for 4 hours, they (Gov'mt and other MP's) accept theirs regardless, and we still wont get our measly 1%.

    Even the BBC was against us; on the Jeremy Vine radio 2 show on the morning of the strike, a very biased view was given with careful editing so that the only person they interviewed was a midwife on £39k per year! Hardly representative! AND they had the odious Edwina Curry putting her acerbic opinions in, calling us "disgraceful" and "disgusting."

    Hunt isn't listening, neither is the rest of the Government, the Tory party or their supporters. They never will. They will only ever think of us as ancilliary workers, the faithful handmaidens of doctors.

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  • simple them out next May or face another 5 years of this

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  • Agree with above.
    Hunt has written books about how he does'nt believe in the NHS as it is, and also written about privatisation of the NHS. He is in the pockets of big American health insurance companies.
    Vote them out next year. Anything is better than this, and at least the NHS (and education etc) will be better under Labour. Hope they get their act together on other things too.

    Just in case anyone was tempted, a vote for UKIP (who doesn't believe in the NHS at all, neither does it believe in women's rights/maternity pay/that women who have had children are not worth as much as a man etc etc....)
    and are more right wing and rich that the average tory MP ..... are nothing but a nasty, zenophobic rabid group who will pocket more of our taxes than the current lot and take us back to the mid 1850's. They dont even turn up in European Parliament, and have been thrown out by a right wing alliance of equally nasty groups in Europe for being more nasty than them..............if that is possible.....

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  • Nice - a bit of political commentary at last! Nurses should use their votes to get rid of the Tories and avoid UKIP, unless voting UKIP will get rid of another tory in their particular constituency. If only Ed Milliband would say something positive to encourage people to vote Labour. Personally I've always voted Green, but this time I'd vote for a monkey to get rid of a tory.
    The real problem is we need proportional representation

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