Westminster Government should be ‘shamed’ into a bigger NHS pay rise – unions

Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent
·3-min read

The Government should be “shamed” into following the lead of the administration in Scotland and increase its pay offer to NHS workers, union leaders are urging.

The Scottish Government has announced that NHS staff in Scotland are to be offered a rise of at least 4%, well above the 1% recommended by the Westminster Government for England.

Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the average pay of a frontline NHS nurse would rise by over £1,200 a year, recognising the “service and dedication” of staff during the pandemic.

The settlement will be backdated to December 2020 in recognition of an “exceptional year of significant pressure”.

Unison’s head of health Sara Gorton said: “This shows where there’s a political will there’s most definitely a way.

“Valuing health staff and investing in the NHS is a political choice. One that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are choosing not to make.

“After a long and difficult year, a decent pay rise for NHS staff should be a simple decision to make and popular with the public.

“The Westminster Government should learn from the approach being adopted north of the border on NHS pay and be shamed into following the Scottish example.”

Unions are campaigning for a bigger increase than the 1% the Government has submitted to the NHS Pay Review Body, which is expected to respond in May.

The pay rise should have been paid on April 1.

Willie Duffy, Unison’s Scotland Head of Health, said: “This past year has highlighted the dedication, skill and sacrifices that all NHS staff make.

“Their contribution must be recognised in their pay packets. It was simply not good enough to push negotiations to the summer and blame the UK Government for the delay so we are pleased to have made significant progress in these pay talks.

“However, the final decision on whether to accept this offer lies with Unison members and we look forward to consulting them in the coming weeks.”

The 14 NHS unions, representing 1.3 million workers, have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, asking to meet with ​him and ​his officials to find a way forward.

The  unions highlighted that the new financial year begins next week, when a new pay deal should have been in place, and they accuse the Government of “deliberately delaying” until ​the summer.

The letter, signed by the lead negotiators from Unison, the Royal College of Nursing and the Royal College of Midwives on behalf of all 14 unions, said: “When NHS staff in England contrast the Scottish offer with what you have proposed for them, they will feel increasingly bewildered by how you are choosing to treat them.

“One week today is the start of the new financial year when the most recent NHS deal will expire.

“Staff across the UK are expecting a new pay award to be in place for April 1 2021, but your Government has imposed serious delays to the process.

“Last July, we wrote to the Chancellor asking to begin early discussions between NHS unions and government on a well-deserved and significant pay award but these were not forthcoming.

“We entered the Pay Review Body process in good faith and submitted our evidence at the start of this year.

“Yet the Government has deliberately delayed its decision to June or July.

“When the UK Government’s submission to the PRB came to light three weeks ago, you will recall the response from NHS staff and the public.

“The majority of people, irrespective of their political affiliation, believe the 1% NHS pay proposal to be unfair.

“As representatives of 1.3 million NHS staff, we urge you to reconsider your proposals urgently.”