Public urged to join slow handclap protest against 1% NHS pay rise

Matthew Weaver
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA</span>
Photograph: Neil Hall/EPA

The public has been urged to join a slow handclap protest against the government’s proposed 1% pay rise for NHS staff as anger mounts over the plan.

Unison called on people to show solidarity with frontline health staff by appearing on their doorsteps and balconies next Thursday at 8pm to show what they think about the “derisory” increase.

The gesture of support for NHS workers should be repeated three weeks later on 1 April, the day staff were due to have their wage increase, the union said.

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The call comes as the Royal College of Nursing threatened to strike over the pay offer, which amounts to a real-terms cut in wages. Its general secretary, Donna Kinnair, said: “This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing. The government is dangerously out of touch with nursing staff, NHS workers and the public.”

She said if the review body accepted the government’s plan, it would amount to an extra £3.50 a week in take-home pay for an experienced nurse.

The protest is an attempt to tap into the public sense of gratitude towards the NHS as shown in the regular Thursday clap for carers that began in the first lockdown. Annemarie Plas, the Dutch woman who organised the clap for carers in the UK, is being urged to back the protest clap.

Related: How is NHS pay decided and what is the case for a 1% rise?

Unison’s general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: “Millions stood on doorsteps and clapped for health staff who’ve given their all. Let’s now stand up for their right to fair wages. Give the chancellor a slow handclap for his miserly 1%. Times may be tough but this deal is below inflation and derisory. It’s like the worst of austerity is back.

“NHS staff have worked throughout the darkest days in health service history. They were expecting a fair increase that reflects their exceptional efforts. Nurses, midwives, porters, cleaners and other health workers are upset, hurt and angry.

“There were 100,000 vacancies even before Covid hit. Now the health service will be losing staff quicker than they can recruit new ones. This offer isn’t just bad for staff. It’s bad for the NHS and the patients it cares for.”

The government has faced growing anger from unions and opposition parties since news of the pay offer emerged. The London mayor, Sadiq Khan, said it was an insult. He tweeted:

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Labour said: “We should be thanking our Covid heroes, not cutting their pay.”