Union members have called for all NHS health workers in the UK to receive an additional £1 an hour, based on the pay rates established in Scotland.
The call was made today by Unison members at the union’s annual health conference in Liverpool.
Its Oxfordshire Health Services branch, which moved the motion, pointed to recent increases in the cost of living that were continuing to have an impact on staff, in particular low paid workers.
Unison member and healthcare assistant Susan Parkinson said workers at her trust in Oxford were struggling to survive on wages below the living wage and, as a result, were forced to take second jobs or rely on overtime.
“By keeping us poor, they can keep us in our place and bring many to the brink of despair”
Ms Parkinson said many members felt the government’s eventual proposal of a 1% pay rise earlier this year was “paltry”, but had accepted it because they realised they had to make “hard choices”.
She also claimed those who had gone on strike over pay as part of national action last year had been punished by managers afterwards. She claimed they had been denied overtime which was instead given to colleagues who did not strike.
However, she argued that workers had been prepared to take action and face the consequences, due to the increasing financial struggles they faced.
“Many of these low paid workers risk intimation, harassment, threats from their supervisors and managers to come and stand on the picket lines,” she said. “They could ill afford to lose money but felt compelled to show the government enough is enough.”
Ms Parkinson claimed some staff at her trust had been forced to use food banks due to low wages. She also pointed to a recent case where an employee had fainted while working in theatre, after sacrificing meals for three days to ensure her children were fed.
“This is what the despicable government has done to hardworking people, working within the NHS. By keeping us poor, they can keep us in our place and bring many to the brink of despair,” she told delegates.
The motion for health workers to receive an additional £1 an hour was subsequently carried by the conference.
Meanwhile, Unison members voted in favour of ensuring that all future pay claims should include proposals for £10 an hour as the minimum rate for health professionals.
This matches the rate put forward by the Trades Union Congress as being the new national minimum wage, up from the current £6.50 an hour, for those aged 21 and over.
The motion was carried overwhelmingly by the conference.