For the first time in a long time we have a choice on a pay award. There is a lot of debate in regards to the genuine value of this, particularly the actual amount. It is fair to say it is nowhere near enough to truly reflect the real value of the roles we perform, but we have to remember who we are dealing with. We have a government who deliberately and systematically want to break up the NHS and sell it on to their friends and it does not make an attractive proposition if the workforce is of a high cost. The award does not go near in addressing the effective pay cuts we have received over the last few years. How colleagues are supposed to cope on 1% is laughable and unrealistic. This pay award (and previous ones) does not address, or mirror, the current rates of inflation.
So, why should we accept this? Don’t forget you do have a choice, but you also have the guidance from the Health NISC to consider, which recommends acceptance. You may ask why are we giving this guidance? This is not a decision we made lightly and the debate was lively with good arguments made by all sides. However, the key message we need to take from this is that this is only the beginning of negotiations, not the end. We need to remember the alternative of not accepting this award is unclear. We should ask ourselves what action would we take, and how sustained would it need to be? What support would we get from the general public? On a short term basis, we know it would be positive, but after that? What is and will be the approach of the other unions? The vast majority are also guiding their members to accept. You may remember we stood alone in our rejection of the changes to our pensions. Being outside of the tent sometimes doesn’t work.
There is still a lot of work to be done and more negotiating to take place, more opportunities to improve and terms and conditions. This is something that will be done by a few, but the best way of really improving our future pay awards and other amendments to our working conditions is by changing the current government. The Tories will never be sympathetic and most certainly will not ever reward those who provide or facilitate professional and dedicate care. A Labour government is the only direction for all of us.
Unite Health National Industrial Sector Committee (NISC) member from the South East Region