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Pay has given us a reason to fight back, 14 March 2014

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

With an 11% pay increase awaiting the xecretary of state after the general election, not to mention the £17m made from the sale of his private business, some have never had it so good. After all over 400 senior managers now earn over £1/4m out of the NHS each year, and over 7,200 earn more than £100k.

The Westminster government’s decision to ignore the NHS Pay Review Body’s evidence, having already made resources available for a 1% uplift was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Britain’s 1.4million workers in the NHS. Never has such anger resonated from NHS staff over a pay announcement.

Whilst governments in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have nuanced their responses in a more palatable way, the fact remains that staff in the devolved countries will also be plunged deeper in the cost of living crisis. After all, 1% is only worth £2 a week more for some colleagues.

At a time when morale is being zapped and blame apportioned, there is no dispute that staff are working longer hours, giving more than ever and are having to hold together a fragmenting NHS through the cuts and privatisation agenda.

Telling staff that they are to face a real terms pay cut across the board when inflation is running at 2.8%, with the majority of staff getting no cost of living rise at all, was the final insult to all hard working staff across the NHS.

There is no dispute that we need to respond; we have to take our stand. Of course it has never been all about the money, and it never will, but when 40,000 staff are earning less than the living wage, and many depend on in-work benefits and foodbanks to get by – we have to make the case that in one of the richest nations on this planet, and one of the most unequal, that unless we use this gross injustice in pay, we will never reset the paradigm.

We have to use this pay insult to set out the type of society that we want to live in. NHS staff should have the dignity to get through their working day, knowing that they can pay the bills and give their families the best opportunities in life, no less than anyone else.

The rich can manage on a lot less, and the poor just need something. Closing the income differentials is now imperative.

We need to work together, rise up together and change our society together. NHS pay might have given us a reason to fight back, and as we do so, we may just get our pay sorted out too.