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Unions warn expected 3 per cent pay rise for the NHS is ‘not enough’

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Unions warn expected 3 per cent pay rise for the NHS is ‘not enough’ as government prepares to unveil above-inflation boost

  • The government is expected to make a 3 per cent pay rise offer for NHS staff
  • Unions have insisted that is not enough with demands for up to 15 per cent
  • BMA has advised members to consider strike action if increase is below 5% 

Unions have warned that an expected 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is not enough – before the government has even confirmed the above-inflation deal.

Ministers could unveil the figure tomorrow before the Commons breaks for the summer, after widespread criticism of the original 1 per cent level they said was all that could be afforded.

However, unions have already dismissed the offer, amid threats of strike action from surgeons and senior doctors.

At the start of July the British Medical Association advised ‘exhausted and demoralised’ members to take industrial action if the annual pay bump is not increased to at least five per cent. 

The Royal College of Nursing has called for a 12.5 per cent rise. And campaigners will hand in a petition at Downing Street later signed by 800,000 people, calling for a 15 per cent boost. 

Unions have warned that an expected 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is not enough. PIctured, protests in London earlier this month

Unions have warned that an expected 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff is not enough. PIctured, protests in London earlier this month 

A 3 per cent rise for NHS staff would be above the latest rate of CPI inflation - although it has been rising fast

A 3 per cent rise for NHS staff would be above the latest rate of CPI inflation – although it has been rising fast 

RCN acting general secretary Pat Cullen said the government needs to show it is ‘serious about filling the tens of thousands of vacant nurse jobs’.

‘Low-level awards of a couple of percent would look timid and insult staff when the challenges they face have never been greater.’

Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said: ‘If the Pay Review Body is recommending a 3 per cent pay rise, it is a small step forward on the insulting 1 per cent the Government offered in March.

‘However, this recommendation in no way recognises the 19 per cent drop in real earnings that many NHS workers have endured in the last decade, nor the immense sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make as Covid infection rates rapidly rise again.

‘It doesn’t match the 4 per cent the Scottish Government offered to NHS workers backdated to December 2020.

‘Three per cent will also do very little to staunch the escalating recruitment and retention crisis and free up resources to tackle the enormous backlog in non-Covid procedures, such as hip replacements.’ 

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics earlier this month showed that growth in average total pay (including bonuses) was 7.3 per cent and regular pay (excluding bonuses) was 6.6 per cent.

However it acknowledged that the figure was being inflated by job protection measures including the furlough over the past 16 months.

Because many workers were being paid not to work or had their hours drastically reduced, last year’s figures slumped massively. 

But it means that as the economy opened up this year there was a counteracting increase as workplaces opened up again.

Viewed through this prism a three per cent pay increase may be seen as more generous as it might initially appear.

Striking would involve stopping all overtime, paid and unpaid. Doctors generally work up to 20 per cent over their contracted hours every week, the BMA said at the start of July.

However the move could be highly disruptive as the NHS tries to clear record backlogs triggered by the pandemic and the threat came before the current spike in Covid cases.

A record 5.12million people are on waiting lists in England for routine care, the highest since records began. Among them, 65,000 have been waiting for more than 18 months.

In March, then health secretary Matt Hancock infuriated NHS staff by claiming the 1 per cent pay offer for frontline staff was ‘fair’ and insisted no-one cares about nurses more than him.

He told the Downing Street press conference the offer, which medics have described as a ‘slap in the face’, was based on ‘affordability’ and that the pandemic had brought ‘financial consequences’.

Mr Hancock – who promised last year he would ‘fight’ to ensure the NHS was given a ‘reward’ in the aftermath of the pandemic – claimed he ‘bowed to no-one in his admiration’ for nurses, adding: ‘I learnt that at the knee of my grandmother who was a nurse.’

Wages have been spiking but the ONS pointed out the figures are being warped by the effects of job protection measures including furlough

Wages have been spiking but the ONS pointed out the figures are being warped by the effects of job protection measures including furlough

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