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NHS staff threaten industrial action following ‘insulting’ 3% pay offer

‘Not only is the figure scandalously low, but Downing Street has been forced to admit that the money isn’t new either,’ the Royal College of Nursing says

HEALTH unions said they were consulting members on industrial action today after the Tory government’s insulting offer of a 3 per cent pay rise for NHS staff in England.

Wednesday evening’s proposal – less than the 4 per cent deal secured for health workers in Scotland earlier this year – falls well short of unions’ calls for an increase of at least 12 per cent to make up for a decade of austerity pay.

Unions in Wales also expressed anger that Mark Drakeford’s Labour government was unable to improve upon the Tories’ offer, having also proposed a 3 per cent rise.

The Department of Health and Social Care claimed that the offer for England, which applies to nurses, paramedics, consultants, dentists and salaried GPs but not junior doctors, would see the average nurse receive an additional £1,000 a year.

Unions pointed out this could turn out to be as little as £20 per week at a time of rising inflation.

Labour also condemned Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s “sleight of hand” when it emerged that the rise would come out of the existing NHS budget, which is already overstretched. 

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Pat Cullen said the government’s “game of smoke and mirrors” was dangerous for patients and bad for staff.

The union had already confirmed it was consulting members on what action to take.

“This pay announcement is fast unravelling,” Ms Cullen said. “Not only is the figure scandalously low, but Downing Street has been forced to admit that the money isn’t new either.

“It is brutally unfair. Ministers must be honest about the impact this would have on patient care.”

The offer came after a day of confusion at Westminster, with Health Minister Helen Whately failing to make an expected announcement during her Commons speech. The offer was confirmed in a low-key press release just hours later, after MPs had left for summer recess.

Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle reprimanded the government over the delay, prompting Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi to apologise without offering an explanation today.

Unite slammed the “grossly inadequate and underwhelming” increase and confirmed it would consult its 100,000 NHS members on possible industrial action.

National officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe said the offer failed to recognise the “Herculean sacrifices that health staff have and are continuing to make” as Covid-19 infection rates soar once again.

“Sajid Javid must give a ‘golden hello’ pay award to NHS staff and open the purse strings so we can have an NHS fit for purpose for the 2020s,” he said.

Unison also confirmed that it would be speaking with members on next steps after the offer.

“As staff ready themselves to deal with another wave, the government must speak up and show it values what they’ve done,” the union’s head of health Sara Gorton said.

GMB said the proposed rise would not make up for the fact that NHS workers in England have lost thousands of pounds in wages every year since 2010.

The union calculated that long-serving cleaners are missing more than £1,000 every year, emergency call handlers £3,500, nurses more than £6,000 and midwives more than £7,500. 

“No wonder morale among NHS workers is rock bottom,” national secretary Rehana Azam said.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth blasted the pay offer and the announcement itself as “a shambles, an insult to the House and a let-down for health and care staff.

“The NHS needs a fully funded plan to provide quality care, and bring ballooning waiting lists down.”

Wales TUC general secretary Shavanah Taj said the offer in Wales also falls far short of what staff deserve.

“It simply doesn’t recognise their dedication, commitment and contribution,” Ms Taj said. She urged the government to “urgently meet with unions to negotiate a pay offer, instead of trying to impose an inadequate one.”

GMB Wales & South West said it would ballot members with a clear recommendation to reject the government’s pay imposition and for industrial action.

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