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Strikes threat as NHS staff to get just 1p over minimum wage, Unison warns

UNISON has urged the government to begin talks to prevent another year of strike action as NHS staff in England face being paid just a penny more than the minimum wage this April. 

The biggest NHS union said that the ambulance workers, nurses, cleaners, medical secretaries, occupational therapists, porters and other staff it represents already know that they will not receive this year’s pay rise on time in April because of delays in the NHS pay review body (PRB) process.

Unison has written to Health Secretary Victoria Atkins, stressing the urgency of a proper pay rise this year if a repeat of last year’s widespread strikes in the NHS is to be avoided and for there to be any hope of filling the numerous vacancies and stopping waiting lists from “spiralling.”

Vacancy rates remain “stubbornly high” across every part of the NHS in England, said Unison, adding that trusts were more than 110,000 staff short, which was having a huge impact on workload, morale and patient care.

Echoing what the GMB union said earlier this week, Unison criticised the PRB process for taking too long, lacking sufficient independence and being not fit for purpose.

Acting head of health Helga Pile said: “There’s a staffing emergency across every part of the NHS in England.

“There are simply too few health workers to meet increasing demand. That leaves staff stretched ever more thinly as they try desperately to deliver quality care to patients.

“It took many days of strikes to get last year’s pay rise agreed, but since then inflation has failed to fall as far, or as fast, as experts predicted.”

Health workers feel that they have had a “raw deal” now the lump sums that helped settle the previous dispute are no longer part of their pay packets, Ms Pile warned.

NHS staff at the bottom of the NHS Agenda for Change band two, such as healthcare assistants, are currently on an hourly rate of £11.45.

This is just 1p more than the £11.44 an hour legal minimum wage and less than the £12 an hour — £13.15 in London -— that the real living wage will rise to in April.

Ms Pile added: “If the government fails to put pay right, the picture looks bleak for the NHS and everyone needing its care.”

Last May, Unison accepted the government’s pay offer of at least 5 per cent with a lump sum bonus, as did GMB, the Royal College of Midwives and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, though it was rejected by Unite and Royal College of Nursing members.

Unison members took part in five strikes from December 2022 to February 2023 in connection with NHS pay for the years 2022/23 and 2023/24.

Ambulance workers from London, Yorkshire, South West, North East and North West walked out on all four days.

Health workers at the University Hospitals Trust and Heart and Chest Hospital in Liverpool did so on December 21 and January 23, with all staff at the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence taking action on January 17.


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