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Unison health conference: We’ll fight for our workers’ pay

“RADICAL” solutions are needed to eradicate poverty pay among NHS workers caused by the “fragmentation” of pay bands and zero-hours contracts, Unison members argued yesterday.

The lowest pay bands should be scrapped to pull workers out of destitution, Sarah Gorton of South Derbyshire Healthcare told delegates on the penultimate day of the union’s health conference in Brighton.

She argued that abolishing NHS pay bands one to three, which outline salaries from £15,000 to £19,000 for admin staff, drivers and housekeeping and healthcare assistants, should be done if it is not at the expense of higher-banded staff.

“Removing poverty pay from the NHS’s lowest bands is a radical edge, but it should help resolve the fragmentation,” she said.

Ms Gorton said that she has seen members taking on roles with job descriptions that would usually come with higher salaries, but are downgraded to lower pay bands.

Welsh delegate Karen Burke said she has been a healthcare support worker for 25 years and was working 60 hours a week just to earn enough to live on.

She had been stuck in band two while juggling work with raising her children until she won a review that resulted in her moving up to the next pay band.

Delegates also criticised the use of zero-hours contracts for the lowest-paid workers, who are already at the greatest risk of financial hardship.

Operational Services Occupational Group delegate Peter Smith said temporary contracts are often downgraded to zero hours.

Neil Taylor from Mid Yorkshire Health said it was “ridiculous” that the same NHS job in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland is paid at different rates in each of the four countries.

In reference to the junior doctors’ strike, he said: “I never thought in my 20 years of nursing that typically middle-class, privately educated and Conservative-voting doctors could be showing more militancy than we have.”

Bolton, Salford and Trafford mental health partnership delegate Josie Cartwright said that the government had “pushed doctors to strike.”

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