Fourteen unions demand 3.9 per cent rise for cash-strapped members
FOURTEEN unions representing NHS workers came together yesterday to demand an above-inflation wage rise from the government and an end to the public-sector pay squeeze.
The unions, including GMB, Unison, Unite, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), wrote to the government calling for a 3.9 per cent rise, along with £800 per worker to make up for the fall in real-terms wages since the 1 per cent public-sector pay cap was imposed in 2010.
Wages are usually determined by the NHS Pay Review Body, which was established by 1986, but the unions said the government had consistently undermined its role and “severely restricted” its ability to make recommendations.
They said they were “seizing the initiative” and going directly to the government to demand an end to public-sector austerity.
NHS pay has fallen by 14 per cent in real terms over the last seven years, according to unions.
They demanded a rise for all health workers, including nurses, porters, physiotherapists, midwives, medical secretaries and cleaners.
The claim comes after the government made a separate offer to police and prison officers earlier this week.
However, Unison national officer Sara Gorton warned against a selective lifting of the pay cap.
“All public servants, no matter where in the country they live or what job they do, deserve a proper pay rise,” she stressed.
Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “The pay austerity in the public sector of the last seven years has been short-sighted and misguided.”
Pay restraint in the NHS has been blamed for a recruitment and retention crisis, with an RCN report finding a shortage of 40,000 nurses across England and Wales.
RCN general secretary Janet Davies said that even if the government were to offer nurses the same deal as the police, it would amount to a pay cut.
“When ministers hold pay down, it drives too many nurses out of the NHS,” she pointed out.
RCM national officer Jon Skewes argued that a pay rise was essential to address the shortage of 3,500 midwives in England, highlighting research by the union which suggested that 80 per cent of those considering leaving the profession would stay if their pay increased.
A government spokesman said the overall NHS pay package must be fair but also affordable to taxpayers.