Unions representing hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers call for ‘pay justice’

Unions representing hundreds of thousands of health workers, including nurses, cleaners, porters, paramedics and ambulance staff, are submitting a claim for a substantial pay rise following years of austerity.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Unison and the GMB said now was the time to reward the hard work of NHS workers in tackling the virus crisis.

The RCN launched a Fair Pay for Nursing’ campaign to demand a 12.5% pay rise for nursing staff across the UK.

Focusing initially on an immediate pay rise for nursing staff in the NHS across the UK, it said it aimed to raise the bar, and so also benefit nursing staff working for independent employers.

The GMB said its claim was for a 15% wage rise, while Unison’s demand would see every NHS employee receive an increase of at least £2,000 by the end of this year.

Unison, which represents NHS staff including healthcare assistants, radiographers, porters, midwives and paramedics, said this rise is the equivalent of around £1 an hour extra for all staff.

If the claim is accepted, minimum wages in the health service would go above £20,000 a year for the first time (more than £20,400 annually in Scotland), according to the union.

A letter from Unison to the Prime Minister references his own battle with Covid-19, and his recovery thanks to the care he received from the NHS.

It says: “Health staff have heard how much your recent personal experiences taught you about the value of what they do.

“They are now looking for you to reflect that in their pay.

“So, Prime Minister, why wait?”

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton (pictured) said: “Government ministers claim NHS staff are a ‘top priority’.

“The Prime Minister must not miss the opportunity to show they really mean it.

“Health service employees have made their expectations clear – that their pay will reflect the work they’ve done during the pandemic.

“This is also the overwhelming message from the public.

“The claim is straightforward, can be brought in quickly and would ensure everyone in the NHS is recognised.

“There’s a tough winter ahead and a pandemic that shows little sign of disappearing.

“Giving health staff a morale boost now is much-needed ahead of any good news about a vaccine.”

NHS workers have endured a decade of real terms pay cuts, but the country relies on them more than ever, said the unions.

Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the RCN said: “The Fair Pay for Nursing campaign is about recognising the skill, experience and responsibility demonstrated every day, in every year, by nursing support workers, nursing associates, registered nurses and all members of the profession.

“This is about more than the profession’s response to Covid-19 – it is about increasing the attractiveness of the profession, to fill tens of thousands of unfilled nursing jobs and reach safe staffing levels.

“It is time to pay nursing staff fairly.”

Rachel Harrison, GMB national officer, said: “Our NHS and its workers were at breaking point before Covid-19, with 100,000 vacancies, privatisation running down services and removing loyal NHS staff from the payroll, a culture of bullying and a looming staff mental health crisis.

“The pandemic has exacerbated the situation.

“Staff put their own lives on the line, attending work to care for others, whilst being in fear for the safety of themselves and their families.

“They have been failed at all key points during the crisis, particularly when it came to pay, PPE and testing.

“Now is the time for the Government to make amends.

“Give the healthcare workers the respect and dignity in pay which is long overdue to really tackle the recruitment and retention crisis within the NHS.

“Now is the time to pay up.

“That’s why GMB is calling for pay justice, a real terms pay increase that makes up for the approximate loss of 15%.

“Substantial enough to repair the decade of austerity and real terms pay cuts suffered by our key workers in the NHS and privatised companies operating within it.

“GMB is also calling for unsocial hours enhancements that have been taken off NHS staff when on sick leave to be reinstated.

“Never again should workers lose out whilst on sick.”

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