The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 30th January 2015
NHS WORKERS throughout England who had been preparing to take industrial action this week in support of a pay claim have called off their action following talks with the Government and a new pay proposal.
Unison, Unite GMB and other health unions are now putting the new pay offer to their membership for consideration. Unison head of health and the unions’ lead negotiator, Christina McAnea said: “The two strike days staged by health workers last year have moved the Government to negotiate with the unions.
“This isn’t a great offer but it addresses some of the key concerns unions have about low pay in the NHS. In the interest of patients’ safety unions will now consult members.
“It will be up to members to decide whether to accept or reject the proposals. If they choose to reject them we will move to further industrial action.”
Gail Cartmail, speaking for the giant union Unite, said: ““Following talks we have suspended industrial action and called off Thursday’s strike to consult with our members over the coming days.
“The offer moves the NHS towards becoming a living wage employer and begins to address issues around low pay.
“Members will decide on whether to accept or reject the offer of what we believe is the best that can be achieved by negotiation.”
The strike was triggered by a Government decision to ignore its own pay review body recommendation of a very modest below inflation level rise of just one per cent for all NHS personnel.
The unions have been asking for an immediate one per cent consolidated uplift for all — and a further consolidated award for 2015-16 — as well as increases in the future that will restore the value of NHS pay.
The real value of NHS pay has fallen by 15 per cent over the last five years. Pay in the NHS has not kept in line with inflation and staff have not received an above-inflation pay rise since 2009.
More than a third of NHS staff, who are non-medical, are paid less than £21,000 a year. The Government has failed to lift those staff out of in-work poverty. But this does not save money as people not paid enough to live on rely on in-work benefits.
Last year more than 10,000 jobs were lost as a result of the unnecessary restructuring of the NHS in England. The Government has tried to argue that cutting pay means more jobs, but in fact it is making cuts to both pay and jobs.
On top of that came “down-banding”, where whole grades of staff are re-graded for budget reasons.
Staff need to be treated well. The NHS is facing unprecedented challenges, telling more than half the workforce that they are not worth even a tiny pay rise will not help to engage them in meeting these challenges.
The independent Pay Review Body for the NHS recommended a one per cent increase to all pay points for all staff across England, Scotland Wales and the north of Ireland all four countries But Health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP ignored them in March and announced an unconsolidated payment for only a minority of staff in England.
The Scottish government announced a one per cent increase to all pay points (consolidated) with additional sums at the bottom to take the lowest paid in the NHS in Scotland above the living wage level. Therefore currently members in Scotland have not been balloted for action.
In Wales, instead of a pay rise most NHS staff have been offered a one-off payment of £160. This payment will be a “non-consolidated” sum.
The Welsh Government is implementing the living wage for all NHS Wales staff, which is a welcome commitment to tackling in-work poverty.
In October Unite members working in the NHS along with colleagues from 10 leading health unions took strike action for the first time in more than 30 years over pay, followed by a second walkout in November.