NHS staff protest at Westminster to demand fair pay

Health service staff angry that their pay is still being capped – despite the economic recovery – are to remind the government today of the millions of hours of unpaid overtime they put in each year.

Later this morning, nurses, radiographers, doctors, physiotherapists, paramedics, hospital cleaners and other NHS staff are to gather in London and Liverpool to protest at the impact that government policies are having on their pay and standard of living – as part of their campaign for fair pay throughout the NHS.

NHS workers will be pictured outside the Department of Health in Westminster and outside ACC Liverpool – where the 2014 NHS Confederation conference is taking place – holding up two giant £1.5bn cheques made payable to the government.

This figure represents the amount that the TUC’s All Together for the NHS campaign – which includes 14 unions representing members employed throughout the health service – estimates that NHS staff in England are ‘donating’ to the government each year as unpaid overtime.

NHS employees are keen to remind Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt of the many extra unpaid hours they willingly work each year which effectively keep the NHS going. They are unhappy that – despite this huge ‘donation’ in unpaid overtime that the government benefits from every year – ministers are determined to limit health service pay rises to well below the rate of inflation.

The pay review body calculated that the cost of giving NHS staff a one per cent rise and their incremental pay increase – which the Health Secretary says the government cannot afford – would cost £710 million this year. This is less than half the amount given in unpaid overtime each year by NHS workers.

Unions say that by 2015/2016 NHS staff will have had their pay capped for six years. Pay was frozen in 2011 and 2012, and then limited to a one per cent increase in 2013. NHS workers are angry that the government is continuing to hold down their pay despite the improving economic situation. Only employees who are at the top of their pay grade will receive a pay increase – again capped at one per cent this year and two per cent next.

Speaking on behalf of the All Together for the NHS campaign, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Every year hard-working health service staff put in many extra hours which they don’t get paid for. These efforts save the government a hefty £1.5bn a year. But even though this unpaid overtime is effectively keeping the NHS going, health service employees increasingly feel that the government is taking them for granted.

“NHS staff have had their pay frozen and capped, which has placed a huge squeeze on their household finances. With the economy now firmly in recovery mode, health service workers might have been forgiven for thinking that the days of public sector pay restraint would be over. But the government has chosen to ignore the advice of the pay review body and is continuing to hold down the salaries of nurses, paramedics and other NHS workers for at least another year.

“The effects of economic recovery have yet to be felt in the pay packets of millions of NHS employees. Morale has never been lower, and cuts to staffing mean most are working longer – often for free. No wonder they feel so angry – it’s time the government gave health service workers a proper pay rise.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “NHS staff are our greatest asset. That’s why at a time of severe funding restraint we have been clear that they should receive at least 1% additional pay this year and next.

“We cannot afford a general pay rise on top of incremental pay increases of up to 6% without risking frontline jobs and safe staffing levels.

“We are disappointed that the unions rejected our offer to discuss any alternative proposals on pay, within an available budget of nearly £1 billion.

“However, our door remains open if they wish to reconsider their position.”