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Pay – so what are we going to do about it? 2 April 2014

Rachael Maskell, Health sector national officerBy Rachael Maskell, Unite head of Health

The government has seen the NHS as easy picking for cutting pay from its 1.4m workforce. It has made a calculation that NHS workers, predominantly women, and all dedicated to their patients (although they fail to say that bit), will bear the sacrifice for another year or two, moan, but then get on with their work.

With most staff donating an additional day a week to the NHS, whether through catching up with notes after a shift, doing their mandatory training on line, covering for shortages in the service or simply being caught up with a patient, the NHS is already getting more than it pays for through your charitable donation.

This soon adds up, and for a Band 6 could amount to just short of £7000 a year were you to get paid for your additional work. Of course you’re not. It doesn’t take long to realise that the NHS is onto something. The more cuts they make, the longer you end up working for the sake of your patients, and the bigger your donation to the NHS coffers.

So when it comes to the end of the year, you expect a little return for all your efforts. It is galling that the Secretary of State doesn’t believe that when inflation is running at 2.8% that you are not even worth the 1% the NHS Pay Review Body recommended, a pay cut in itself.

Now add in the loss you have for paying more into your pension (again paying more for getting less), and you see a bit of a theme developing.

In addition some have been downbanded, lost their NRRP, lost their on call, seen increases in NMC fees, lost unsocial hours when off sick, received performance pay or not, paid increased parking fees, and not to mention lost the 15% increase in inflation with your salary being frozen; the list goes on.

The lesson is: the more you give, the more they take

The solution is: stop giving more, and see if they start giving more

This has always been the narrative of industrial action. If you don’t take a stand, then the employers will come back for more, but once bitten, they will think twice next time.

Unite’s preparations for an industrial action ballot are in full swing. If we only work to rule, then it could cost the government up to £10bn, yes billion more in providing cover, but we know agencies charge more than this.

This is just by working the 37½ hours, or less if you are part time, you are employed for. You shouldn’t be doing any more than this anyway, as you will be tired, lose focus, and it will not necessary be in the best interests of your patients, not to mention yourself.

Let’s start by working in line with our contracts, and see what the government has to say. If the government only paid the rate for the job, the outcome for staff, patients, and the NHS at large would be infinitely cheaper. Are you angry enough to join us?