Union anger over Government’s recommendation of maximum 3% pay rise for health workers

Health unions have reacted with anger after discovering that the Government is recommending a maximum pay rise of 3% this year for NHS workers in England.

Unison said the figure was revealed in the Government’s submission to the NHS Pay Review Body.

Unions have been pressing for a substantial pay rise following the efforts of NHS workers during the pandemic, and to counter fears of an exodus of staff.

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton (pictured) said: “This tight-fisted proposal falls well short of rising costs and staff hopes . It’s barely half the rate of inflation, which is far from peaking and won’t for many more months.

“This will go down like a lead balloon with health workers struggling to fill up at the pump, buy groceries and pay bills. It would be a wage cut in all but name.

“Nurses, healthcare assistants, hospital porters and others have borne a heavy responsibility during the pandemic. Now Government expects the NHS team to work miracles with the Covid backlog, despite the growing staffing void.

“The Government’s told private firms struggling to recruit to pay premium wages, but ministers aren’t prepared to do the same for the NHS.

“Holding down health worker wages won’t stop the inflation spiral, but it would mean floods of NHS staff quitting for less stressful, more lucrative jobs.

“Staff feel so dispirited, many already have one foot out the door. This substandard amount will convince many it’s time to part company with the NHS.

“The Chancellor and the Prime Minister must do far better and come up with enough cash for a proper wage rise that stems the staffing flight and ensures safe, quality care for patients.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We hugely value and appreciate all our NHS staff and there are now record numbers working in the health service.

“NHS staff received a 3% pay rise last year despite a public sector pay freeze, which increased nurses’ pay by £1,000 on average.

“We are rightly giving NHS workers another pay rise this year.

“This needs to be proportionate to pay rises in the wider economy, and take the economic context into account including inflationary pressures.

“It also needs to balance rewarding our hard working public sector workers with ensuring we can continue with front line service delivery, while tackling the Covid backlogs and growing our NHS workforce.

“No decisions have been made, and we will carefully consider all pay recommendations this summer once their final reports are submitted.”

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen, said: “This document shows the UK Government is not serious about tackling the nursing workforce crisis, retaining expert and experienced nursing or making patient care safer.

“Our members will see this as a deliberate attempt to pitch nurses against patients. Politicians need to move beyond this false choice between paying staff fairly and safer staffing levels – one is key to the other.

“Failing to pay a fair wage is a false economy: We know that many are thinking of quitting the profession and anything less than what they deserve will not prevent an exodus from a safety-critical profession.

“The elephant in the room seems to be the spiralling cost of living. By not acknowledging it, they are signalling to staff that their pay will just fall even further behind inflation.

“The Government must show staff they are valued and send a message to the public that patient safety is a top priority. This deeply unambitious starting point for the next pay round will not help the much needed recovery of services.”

Rachel Harrison, national officer of the GMB union said: “A maximum 3% increase for exhausted NHS workers would fall far short of what they deserve.

“With spiralling inflation and hikes to national insurance contributions, this derisory proposal means NHS workers are staring at another real terms loss.

“GMB has warned Government and the Pay Review Body that staff are already leaving the NHS and this will be the final push that many others need.

“The Government’s own evidence says that early indicators show that leaver rates and vacancy levels in the NHS are returning to pre-pandemic levels.

“Ministers warn of stark trade offs between NHS pay and NHS services – but patient care is on the line if the health service can’t recruit and retain the workers it needs.

“The Government must prioritise pay, recruitment and retention. GMB calls on the Pay Review Body to do the right thing and recommend a pay award that NHS workers deserve.”

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